Bohemian art glass was made in and around the present-day Czech Republic during the Art Nouveau or Jugendstil era. Antique pieces in this genre most often consist of a classic vase form that has been hand-worked and sometimes deformed into swirling, organic-looking shapes like seashells, flowers, and tree trunks. Decorative vases, cups, and pitchers were popular forms, and many of the pieces have an iridescent sheen from the firing and reduction techniques used at the time.
The movement grew out of a rich tradition of Bohemian glass making, which goes back to the 16th and 17th centuries. But it was the Marmoriertes and Lithyalin glass of the mid-19th century that really paved the way for the iridescent Art Nouveau art glass that contemporary collectors are most familiar with. These types of "marbled" glass signaled a shift away from a study of form to an infatuation with surface treatments and techniques.
One of the region’s leaders in this field was Loetz, which took first prize for its pieces exhibited at the 1889 Paris Exhibition. Loetz pieces from this period include the vases, pitchers, and bowls in the Phänomen series. The chief characteristic of the series was the rippled or featherlike designs on the object’s surface, which was achieved by wrapping a molten piece of glass with equally hot glass threads, and then pulling those threads to make waves and other designs while the materials were still malleable.
Loetz patented the Phänomen technique in 1898, but by that time the firm was also incorporating techniques pioneered by L.C. Tiffany in the United States—in particular, Tiffany’s iridescent Favrile work. Combined, the two techniques provided plenty of inspiration for Loetz designers and artisans, including E. Prochaska, Franz Hofstötter, and Koloman Moser.
The Kralik glassworks was another well-known maker of antique Bohemian art glass, although it would not rise to prominence until the Art Deco period. During the Art Nouveau, it was largely producing vases, jars, and shells in the style of Loetz and others. Today, collectors of antique Bohemian art glass are often buying a Kralik when they are being sold a Loetz.
Rindskopf and Sons was another contemporary of Loetz. Although early 20th-century glass enthusiasts had no difficulty differentiating its tall vases, with their slender bodies and bulbous heads, from Loetz pieces, today sellers routinely label Rindskopf pieces incorrectly as Loetz. Series to look for include Pepita, Grenada, and Alhambra.
Ludwig Moser & Sons of Karlsbad, in what is now Karlovy Vary in the Czech Republic, excelled at cut, gilded, and acid-etched pieces. And then there was Pallme-König and Habel, which had its own patent for threading glass onto a vase. In Pallme-König’s case, the threading ranges from tight and regular lines to treatments that are almost Jackson Pollock-like, in which the thick threads of glass appear to be the only things that are keeping the deformed shapes underlying them from collapsing and falling apart.
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