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Steuben Division Of Corning Glass
The Steuben Division of Corning Glass Works, Corning, New York, was established in 1903 by Frederick Carder. In 1918 the Corning Glass Works acquired controlling interest of Steuben.
Steuben is almost entirely hand-made, blown glass of lead base. No painted or enamelled decorations are employed and within the last few years even colored glass has been largely discontinued as a stock product, although formerly this was one of the glories of Steuben.
Like other glassmakers, Steuben have constantly striven to produce a perfectly transparent crystal-a glass inherently beautiful in its clarity-which would invite and challenge artists as a superior medium of expression.
Nothing better attests the fulfillment of these aims than modern Steuben crystal itself. Under the direction of Arthur, A. Houghton, Jr., John M. Gates and Sidney B. Waugh, Steuben designs not only enhance the pure transparency of the glass, but also noticeably extend the limits of art in its applications to glass.
Architecturally trained, Mr. Gates has brought majestic, flowing lines to his glass designs as well as an amazing sense of proportion between elements of decoration and the shape of the piece. His heavy cut crystal vase, designed for the Paris International Exposition of 1937, is a superb tribute to his style and an object of genuine beauty; seldom does an artist invest matter with such an abundance of grace as Mr. Gates has achieved in this magnificent creation. Another masterpiece to which he lent his talents is the massive crystal bowl in the permanent collection of Contemporary American glass in the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
The designs of Mr. Waugh, the young American sculptor, are characterized by engraved decorations of his own unique conception. Drawing upon mythology, legend, allegory, and constantly upon that supreme motif of the sculptor-the human body-his varied and animated designs constitute a new trend in American glass. Exotic beings arrested in capricious bits of fantasy; fabulous episodes from mythology; or symbolic designs such as his Mariner's bowl are favorites of Mr. Waugh.
In his work, although the glass is noticeably a background for the cut decoration, there is in every piece a satisfying unity which fully harmonizes the nature of the engraving with the design as a whole. Aesthetic deference of the ornament to the ornamented is evident in all the work of Mr. Waugh.
Some day-not too remote-when Steuben's disappearing colored glass will be at a premium, the name of Frederick Carder will also stand out among Steuben artists for his part in perfecting that glass. Since 1933 the directing genius of Arthur A. Houghton, Jr., has been associated with the creative zeal of Mr. Gates and Mr. Waugh. Mr. Houghton, a vice-president of Corning Glass, has brought both enthusiasm and a fine appreciation of true hand-craftsmanship to the task of supervising the select group of Steuben artisans.
Steuben crystal is a vital source of inspiration to these three men: Houghton, Gates and Waugh. Through an active interchange of ideas between themselves and other artists, and with uncanny awareness of the beauty of pure crystal, they have heightened that beauty by means of truly aesthetic designs-designs of utter charm and originality which are subtly more appealing for their gracious subservience to the crystal they enhance.
Throughout Steuben designs their engraving, cutting and shaping are noticeably executed by craftsmen who are interested in capturing the exact spirit of the designer; they inject no jarring interpolations of techinque to unbalance the composition. This sympathetic understanding between designer and cutter frees Steuben of those unbearable banalities which frequently creep in where such cooperation is missing.
Aside from reproductions of earlier types, the Steuben cutting wheels seldom find their paths over the older and arid prismatic routes. Cooperating with designers, the cutters follow, rather, the modern conception of glass cutting, in which cutting is secondary to aesthetic congruity. A bit unmodern, these craftsmen have a wholesome horror of the facile short-cuts of quantity production.