Transformation in Glass

The Transformations in Glass Program prepares students to explore the world of glass in a country renowned for its glass works. The Program is open to all students. No experience is necessary; some materials provided. A 3-day excursion on the old“Glass Route” through North Bohemia is included.

A Brief History of Greatness in Czech Glass:

The Czech lands have been identified with greatness in glass design and craftsmanship since the Middle Ages. Vast forests in Northern Bohemia provided large quantities of fuel to melt the locally abundant components and a skilled population provided technical/creative ingenuity. When you combine these factors with expanded world markets, conditions were ideal for success. Bohemia became the dominant global producer of decorative glassware during the high Baroque style (1685-1750), and “Bohemian Glass” remains today a term synonymous with greatness in this field.

During communist rule in Czechoslovakia (1948-1989), an unlikely series of events again propelled Czech glass onto the world stage, but this time, it took the form of large-scale, abstract sculpture in kiln-cast glass. Art that did not serve to promote the regime in this repressive climate was prohibited. But works in glass, considered only as a material used in the applied arts, and incapable of being used as an expressive medium, were allowed to develop unhindered. Many Czech painters and sculptors who refused to adopt “Socialist Realism,” a style whose sole function was to glorify the government, migrated to the medium of glass in order to continue working freely.

With an influx of talent and creativity to the medium of glass sculpture, Czechoslovakia gained international recognition for their unique contributions to abstract art. The reaction of the communist regime was fascinating. They enjoyed receiving international attention for the achievements of their glass artists and proudly displayed the glass sculpture in many international exhibitions, notably the Montréal World’s Fair Expo in 1967. Officials turned a blind eye to the fact that these artists were actually participating in abstract art movements, which had been condemned as “decadent” by the regime. Paradoxically, these monumental glass castings were only made possible through government subsidies to the glass industry.

Since the fall of communism in 1989, the Czechs have maintained their mastery in kiln-casting glass. Artists from around the world come to the Czech Republic to realize their designs because, in fact, there simply are not any other locations equipped to work at this large scale and with such favorable results. Czech glass artists are now enjoying the recognition they truly deserve.

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