When collectors think of Steuben glass, two distinct styles come to mind. The first was pioneered by Steuben co-founder Frederick Carder in 1903. As Steuben’s chief designer, Carder created a new form of iridescent glass called Aurene. Unlike Tiffany’s dense and dark Favrile line of iridescent glass, which was introduced in 1894, Carder’s Aurene pieces were luminous and lustrous, seeming to radiate more light than they absorbed.
So distinctive was Aurene from Favrile that Steuben was granted a patent on the technique in 1904, the year after the company’s founding. That did not stop Tiffany from filing a lawsuit against Steuben, although the case was tabled when Carder pointed out that the Bohemians had been using iridescent techniques since the middle of the 19th century.
It’s likely Tiffany would not have prevailed anyway: Not only were Carder’s Aurene surfaces different from Tiffany’s, the shapes of his objects were unlike Tiffany’s, too. Favrile forms and surface decorations tended to the organic and naturalistic—they were pure Art Nouveau. Steuben’s Aurene vases, bowls, and candlesticks flirted with Art Nouveau, but Carder never strayed far from classical forms and used decoration sparingly.
So successful was Carder’s Aurene that Steuben’s earliest years were largely devoted to its production. Gold was a favorite color, sometimes paired with white or shades of green or red. Blue Aurene was a Steuben glass mainstay—some blue Aurene Steuben vases had concave bodies and ruffled rims; others were squat and almost utilitarian looking. By the 1910s, Egyptian shapes (tall vases with collared necks and high shoulders) were added to the company’s repertoire.
In 1918, with World War I still raging, lead, an important component of crystal, was rationed for the war effort. Steuben quickly needed a partner to weather the resulting economic downturn, so it sold to nearby Corning Glassworks, which made it a division of the larger company.
Carder remained in charge of Steuben during the 1920s, and though his style evolved, he did not shake his classical predispositions. Many Steuben vases from this period were acid etched and suggested the influence of Art Deco. One alabaster, urn-like vase featured an acid-etched scene of leaping deer in a stylized hunting landscape on a red background. Other pieces resembled ginger jars from Asia, with green-on-green patterns of curly-cues and cartoon dragons. Even Steuben’s Cluthra vases, with their distinctive air bubbles trapped just below the surface, were acid-etched with decorative, floral designs.
It was beautiful stuff, but the public mostly yawned, which is why in 1933, three decades after he had helped found Steuben, Carder was replaced by sculptor Sidney Waugh...
During his time as Steuben’s chief designer, Carder had been extraordinarily prolific, producing more than 5,000 shapes and some 60 unique colors and designs. As a result, a lot of glass had piled up in the Steuben warehouse. As if to dramatize the changing of the guard, great volumes of Steuben glass from the Carder years were sold as factory leftovers, after which most of the rest was destroyed in what Corning locals called "The Smashing." It was literally out with the old and in with the new.
Waugh would help give Steuben its second great look—clear crystal. The change was partly due to Waugh’s different aesthetic sensibility from Carder’s, but a major factor in the shift at Steuben was a technological breakthrough on the part of Corning Glass chemists. Known as 10M, this new glass recipe permitted the full spectrum of light to pass through it, including ultra-violet waves, creating unprecedentedly clear crystal. Almost all Steuben crystal products produced in the years following this innovation were made out of 10M—from stemware to bowls to drinking glasses to urns.
The designs that came to mark this era of transition were heavily influenced by Art Deco. Large cut or blown bowls and vases were routinely engraved using copper-wheel techniques. Right away, Waugh made his mark, just as Carder had done years before. His watershed was a 1935 piece called the Gazelle Bowl. It featured a large circular crystal bowl set in four rectangular bottom pieces, with engravings of twelve gazelles prancing around the bowl’s circumference. That year, Waugh’s Gazelle Bowl, Zodiac Bowl, and a vase called Agnus Dei were added to the collection of the Metropolitan Museum in New York.
Until this point, Steuben had been a fairly insular world, but in 1940 the company collaborated with 27 internationally renowned artists, including Georgia O’Keefe, Henri Matisse, Isamu Noguchi, Salvador Dali, Paul Manship, and Thomas Hart Benton. The two-month exhibition of engraved glass objects created by these artists was so popular that Steuben had to lock the doors of its Fifth Avenue store several times a day to control the crowds.
Sales sank during World War II, but Steuben participated in the post-war expansion that followed. Steuben designer Walter Teague turned to the drawings of John J. Audubon to create a series of 10-inch plates, each of which featured an engraving of a different bird on its base. In 1947, President and Mrs. Truman presented a set of the Steuben Audubon plates to Princess Elizabeth as a wedding present.
Tasteful design, even tasteful packaging, became a hallmark during the 1950s, and crystal hand coolers in the rounded shapes of animals became a Steuben trademark. Also during the 1950s, Steuben designers began to individualize their art glass pieces, playing with shape, proportion, and even asymmetry. This experimental aesthetic continued into the 1960s, reflecting the abstract geometrical trend that was popular at the time. Steuben even produced a series of pieces inspired by such poets as W.H. Auden, Marianne Moore, and William Carlos Williams.
In November of 2011, the Steuben Glass factory in Corning, New York, which had been operated by Schottenstein Corporations of Ohio since 2008, closed its doors. The rights to the Steuben name were sold back to Corning Incorporated, but it's unclear if signature pieces such as the Gazelle Bowl will ever be produced again.
Best of the Web (“Hall of Fame”)
Pattern Glass School
Cloud Glass Reference Site
Antique Glass Salt and Sugar Shaker Club
Clubs & Associations
- Early American Pattern Glass Society
- Antique Glass Salt and Sugar Shaker Club
- The Glass Art Society
- National Cambridge Collectors, Inc.
- Stained Glass Association of America
- The Glass Association
- Yahoo 2Glassies2 Discussion Group
- Yahoo Glass Lovers Glass Database Forum
- Yahoo Fenton Friendly Folks Discussion Group
- Yahoo Fenton Art Glass Discussion Group
Other Great Reference Sites
Most watched eBay auctions
Recent News: Steuben Glass
Source: Google News
ART PREVIEW: Looking back at Arts and Crafts through potteryDiamondback Online, October 8th
Among the pottery and glass makers on view are Rookwood, a Cincinnati-based house; Steuben, a Corning, New York, glassmaker; and Tiffany, the crown jewel of decorative glass. The only two individual artists on view are Ohr of Biloxi, Mississippi, and ...Read more
Corning Inc, Dow Chemical could part waysElmira Star-Gazette, October 8th
Another was Steuben Glass, the high-end crystal tableware and art glass company founded in 1903, acquired by Corning Glass Works in 1918 and jettisoned by Corning Inc. in 2008. So don't expect me to raise an eyebrow when somebody says the Twin ...Read more
Madeline Weinrib Debuts a Pop-Up in NYCWall Street Journal, October 8th
WHEN RENOWNED textile and rug designer Madeline Weinrib was growing up in the '60s and '70s in Westchester County, New York, she never ventured much beyond New York City, where her family made an annual pilgrimage. But after visiting a ...Read more
Celebrate legendary Texas artist Tom Lea this monthAlpine Avalanche, October 7th
Galveston has the new Bryan Museum, where Texas history comes alive through maps and spurs, documents and letters – and art by Tom Lea. In its Texas master's gallery, original drawings for “Trail Driver” – a design for Steuben Glass – and studies for...Read more
Twentieth Century and Modern Design Leads Kaminski's September SalesBenzinga, October 5th
Top lots included a modernist painting by the French artist Charles Venard titled "Le Fleur Allumee" which was hotly contested and ultimately sold to the Internet for $18,000 and a wonderful signed Steuben copper wheel engraved crystal sculpture...Read more
Steuben legislature endorses CCC facilities planElmira Star-Gazette, October 1st
Corning art gallery to host Glass Invitational 2015. Exhibit A, 22 E. Market St. in Corning, will unveil a new exhibition, Glass Invitational 2015, on Saturday. The exhibition will be on view at the gallery until Jan. 2. An opening reception is...Read more
Harvest festival draws crowds in AddisonSteuben Courier, September 26th
The festival included glass art, woodcarvings, paintings, pottery and many more. “We had so many vendors, more than ever before,” Cheney said. The event also included many children's activities, including pumpkin painting, face painting, sand art and a ...Read more
Funding competition fuels S. Tier growthSteuben Courier, September 12th
The 25,000-square-foot renovation space opened for enrollment recently, and features “state-of-the-art equipment, labs (and) simulators,” Tranter said. “Baccalaureate nurses are the most in-demand occupation in our region,” he added. A number of...Read more