Clear as Crystal: Colorless Glass from the Chrysler Museum
December 19, 2020 — July 11, 2021
Glass Project Gallery
Because glass is an artificial material, it can be made nearly any color imaginable. People have long been captivated by colorless, transparent glass despite the other color possibilities.
Clear As Crystal: Colorless Glass from the Chrysler Museum explores the allure of colorless glass by showcasing contemporary artworks and historical objects from within the Museum’s permanent collection that are made exclusively with colorless glass. The works on view reveal the wide array of techniques that artists have used to capitalize on the aesthetic and intellectual opportunities offered by clear, colorless glass.
Glass is naturally bluish-green in hue, so glassmakers have to intentionally manipulate its chemistry in order to turn it crystal clear. Glassmakers in the ancient and Islamic worlds sought to produce a glass that imitated the pure quartz mineral called rock crystal, while Venetian glassmakers of the Renaissance kept secret recipes for their famous cristallo glass. English chemists of the seventeenth century sought to produce their own perfectly clear glass, leading to the popularization of “lead crystal.” Bohemian artisans were renowned for elaborately engraved colorless glasses during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, while American glass factories later produced cut and pressed glassware to reflect and refract light. Contemporary artists continue to harness the power and properties of colorless glass, using it as a means to sculpt with light and form.
The artworks on view in this exhibition demonstrate how artisans and artists across time and around the world have adapted or manipulated colorless glass. An impressive array of forming and decorating techniques have been used, including blowing, molding, casting, pressing, cutting, carving, laminating, engraving, etching, and polishing. The exhibition includes works by artists and designers like Stanislav Libenský and Jaroslava Brychtová, Christopher Reis, Karen LaMonte, Luke Jerram, Simon Gate, Edvard Hald, and Steven Weinberg as well as significant glass manufacturers like Boston & Sandwich Glass Co., New England Glass Co., T.G. Hawkes & Co., Steuben, Libbey, Tiffany, Lalique, Gallé, Baccarat, Orrefors, and Barovier & Toso.
An accompanying exhibition brochure (linked below) explores the science of glass through an investigation of the chemical properties and physical behaviors of colorless glass. Several examples of colorless rock crystal quartz have been generously loaned by Hardy’s The Art of Jewelry in Virginia Beach, including both natural crystal clusters and sculpture by the renowned German gem-cutter Tom Munsteiner.
Programs and Guides
Clear as Crystal: Curator Virtual Tour
Explore the artworks on view with Carolyn Swan Needell, Ph.D., the Carolyn and Richard Barry Curator of Glass. See the diversity of techniques and aesthetic effects achieved by artists working with colorless glass, and learn more about the allure of this captivating material. Sign up
The Properties of Colorless Glass View
A Timeline of Colorless Glass through the Ages View