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History Of Glass From Sweden

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In less than two centuries of glass history and a little over three decades in the field of better glass, Sweden has attained an enviable position among the world's fine glassmakers. Swedish glass history is quite fully chronicled in the accounts of the activities of the various factories.



The Eda Glass Works, located in Varmland, was established in 1833. Until rather recently pressed glass was their primary output, but with the management of E. Stromberg they have developed a worthwhile cut glass, characterized by color tones, such as mild topaz, smoke brown, beryl amethyst, and other more or less neutral shades. Although broad facets and gently lobed flutings pervade the Eda designs they are by no means confined to such styles. The highly artistic productions of Gerda Stromberg include graceful shapes imparted to the semi-fused glass free of cutting; and other designs packed with involved geometric cutting, though seldom of prismatic nature.

The Kosta-Reijynyre factory in Smaland produces an outstanding cut glass. It is here that the unusual and elegant cut crystal of the artist Elis Bergh is created. Despite its rather recent entry into the realm of cut glass, this company traces its history back to 1741 with the establishment of the old Kosta works at Karlskrona.

The versatile painter, Gunnar Wennerberg, early in the twentieth century designed and decorated some commendable glass pieces patterned after Galle, but his work ended with a few experiments. Lovely decanters, drinking glasses, and vases are produced by Kosta, almost wholly by hand, except for the limited use of molds for some gross exterior shapes. The artist Ewald Dahlskog has applied his unique broad slashes in characteristic manner to many of Kosta's modern pieces; stylized animals flee from Dahlskog lightning in one design; in another, four seals push a ball amid waving sea grass; and in others he obtains exceptionally pleasing designs by means of shallow wheel engraving.

Orrefors. The period since 1915 records more activity and recognition for Swedish glass than its entire history up to that time. Sweden's rapid rise to prominence, aside from the recent work of Bergh at the Kosta works, can be traced almost directly to the Orrefors factory.

Taking over a tiny industrial glass plant at Orrefors where ink bottles and window glass were made, Johann Ekman of Gothenburg reorganized the plant and personnel, entrusting the direction to two noted artists and decorators, Edvard Hald and Simon Gate. Earliest Orrefors glass consisted chiefly of well shaped household glass, but about the time of the amalgamation with the Stomberg Glass Works in 1918 there was produced the Orrefors "Graal" glass, an unusual product enshrouded in filmy, cloudy colors and decorative figures. In Graal glass seldom is decoration applied to the cold glass; it is wholly a product of the furnace. Notwithstanding the exacting procedure in making Graal glass and the uncertainty of results, it has continued to be a distinctive feature of the Orrefors production. Later these artists extended their efforts to intaglio engraved glass which with the undecorated colored table glass is now the bulk of Orrefors output.

"To pronounce one or the other (Hald or Gate) as artistically superior is a matter of personal taste. Yet we might perhaps assert that Gate has a clearer perception of the glass in its character of a bubble, whereas Hald's forms reveal a certain curiosity and a quest for the more modern. The decorations of Hald show in a less degree than those of Gate the rich interlacings characteristic of the baroque style, but possess instead a freer imagination which is at the same time more modern and more personal" (from Erik Wettergren's The Modern Decorative Arts of Sweden).

Hald and Gate employ methods similar to those used by many sixteenth century Italian intaglio engravers and sculptors of pure rock crystal; especially Gate in his liberal use of the nude human figure, which so ideally complements the intaglio style in the illusion of relief it displays. Hald tends to the more picturesque and fanciful, drawing straight from nature, and depending somewhat upon an imaginative continuance to many of his designs. Gate is more proficient in engraving and cutting along lines of the Renaissance baroque style, especially reminiscent of the Renaissance engravings. Despite all of these influences, and an international training in the case of Hald, the work of these two artists is almost always characteristically Scandinavian. Victor Lindstrand, who came to the Orrefors art staff in 1929, has contributed designs from baroque nudes to highly constrained hand-painted decorations. He ably completes this first triumvirate of Orrefors art.



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