The Miracle of Czech Glass

A unique collection of Czech modern glass 1946 - 2019

René Roubíček: Antonín Dvořák (1946) by René Roubíček (1922–2018)Museum of Decorative Arts In Prague

1945: New Beginning

After 1945, young artists were convoked to North Bohemia to help with renewing the glass industry and education. It was thanks to precisely these artist´s efforts that the foundations for a new approach to Czech glass were laid in 1946–1948.

Stanislav Libenský, Jaroslava Brychtová: Winged Head (1962) by Stanislav Libenský (1921–2002), Jaroslava Brychtová (1921–2020)Museum of Decorative Arts In Prague

Behind the Iron Curtain

When the boarders were closed after 1948, the work of Czech glassmakers evolved for nine years in a certain amount of isolation from the wider world. Milan Triennial in 1957 and Expo 58 Brussels opened up new opportunities.

Thomas S. Buechner (1926 – 2010), founding director of Corning Museum of Glass (USA):
"As the unanticipated crates from behind a very hostile Iron Curtain arrived in 1959 – and there were many – we were amazed. It was like receiving household goods from another planet..."

Stanislav Libenský, Jaroslava Brychtová: Head–Bowl (1955/1956) by Stanislav Libenský (1921–2002), Jaroslava Brychtová (1921–2020)Museum of Decorative Arts In Prague

Stanislav Libenský a Jaroslava Brychtová

From 1957 onwards Stanislav Libenský and Jaroslava Brychtová began working on the systematic melding of glass art and architectonic space. Trey created more than 80 large interior works both at home and abroad.

Stanislav Libenský, Jaroslava Brychtová: Sphere in a cube, Stanislav Libenský (1921–2002), Jaroslava Brychtová (1921–2020), 1970, From the collection of: Museum of Decorative Arts In Prague
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Stanislav Libenský, Jaroslava Brychtová: Head I., Stanislav Libenský (1921–2002), Jaroslava Brychtová (1921–2020), 1957/1958, From the collection of: Museum of Decorative Arts In Prague
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Work of the Czech glassmakers met with acclaim from Western critics. Czech glass artists won four awards in Milan, and eleven at Expo 58, with two of these being grand prizes. This was followed by exhibitions in Moscow, Corning, Berlin, Magdeburg, Sao Paolo, New Delhi, and Bombay, Expo 67 in Montreal, and elsewhere. Czech glass began to be valued abroad and became a popular collector´s item.

Václav Cigler: Object (1966/1974) by Václav Cigler (1929)Museum of Decorative Arts In Prague

Potemkin Village of Communistic Society

Issues specific to Czechoslovakia: Large foreign exhibitions made up for the absence of market economic pressure and competitions. However, the Czechoslovak exhibits never saw execution.

While the global art scene was dominated by an industrial design that reacted to the postwar fascination with consumer goods, the Czechoslovakian glassmaking scene began to reflect issues specific to Czechoslovakia. Although the industry did still retain a role for artists, there was a lack of internal mechanisms for ensuring the actual introduction of their new designs into the manufacturing process.

René Roubíček: Glass Cloud (1970) by René Roubíček (1922–2018)Museum of Decorative Arts In Prague

A Triumph and... the End

Expo 1970, in Osaka, Japan, was to see the last Czechoslavak state participation in the Expos for a very long time. 

Like other artists, Czech glass artists, too, used their works at Osaka to criticize the 1968 Warsaw Pact invasion of their country. Czechoslovak society at the time was dominated by so-called "normalization": the process of re-freezing political life after the Prague Spring thaw. However, domestic glass artists had the advantage of not being dependent on the sale of their works in Czechoslovakia alone.

Ladislav Oliva sr.: Bowl, Ladislav Oliva st. (1933), 1961, From the collection of: Museum of Decorative Arts In Prague
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That is: a massive part of their individual production was exported abroad by the Art Center, and as it had no success with Western collectors when it came to selling other artistic commodities, and meanwhile the regime vitally needed foreign currency, in this respect, the abstract forms of Czech glass were something that the state was willing to tolerate.

Miloslav Klinger: Heron, Miloslav Klinger (1922–1999), 1965, From the collection of: Museum of Decorative Arts In Prague
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Miluše Roubíčková: Kugelhupf, Miluše Roubíčková (1922–2015), 1967/1977, From the collection of: Museum of Decorative Arts In Prague
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Vladimír Kopecký: Vase, Vladimír Kopecký (1931), 1965, From the collection of: Museum of Decorative Arts In Prague
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Miluše Roubíčková: A Tribute to Botticelli, Miluše Roubíčková (1922–2015), 1973, From the collection of: Museum of Decorative Arts In Prague
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Dana Vachtová: Houses That Have Disappeared (1989) by Dana Vachtová (1937)Museum of Decorative Arts In Prague

The 80th – a clear effort to rise again into activity

Glassmakers arrived with new ideas, and, excellent exhibitions, symposiums, and an individual spark lit up the atmosphere of creation in this field. More frequent work-related travel abroad became possible.

Around mid-1980s, the youngest artists studying at the glass studio of the Academy of Arts, Architecture and Design in Prague discovered the elements of post-modernims and, with them, decorativeness, grotesque ornament, humor, and provocation. And also rebellion against centrally directed culture – and against glass itself.

Jaroslav Róna: Fortress, Jaroslav Róna (1957), 1986/1987, From the collection of: Museum of Decorative Arts In Prague
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Kryštof Trubáček: Untitled, Kryštof Trubáček (1958–2000), 1989, From the collection of: Museum of Decorative Arts In Prague
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Jiři Šuhájek: Girls, Jiří Šuhájek (1943), 1982, From the collection of: Museum of Decorative Arts In Prague
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Martin Velíšek: Gipsies, Martin Velíšek (1968), 1989, From the collection of: Museum of Decorative Arts In Prague
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Klára Horáčková: Xiphosuran (2003) by Klára Horáčková (1980)Museum of Decorative Arts In Prague

Fundamental changes after 1989

Czech glass artists had to begin abiding by harsh laws of global marketing. They thus travel, go out on intership, teach abroad, and cooperate with professional galleries

Jana Železníková: Wire and glass, Jana Železníková, 2008, From the collection of: Museum of Decorative Arts In Prague
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Ivana Šrámková: A Car III, Ivana Šrámková (1960), 1986, From the collection of: Museum of Decorative Arts In Prague
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Rony Plesl: Vase Nipon, Rony Plesl (1965), 2000, From the collection of: Museum of Decorative Arts In Prague
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Lukáš Jabůrek: Vase Pear, Lukáš Jabůrek (1983), 2012, From the collection of: Museum of Decorative Arts In Prague
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Jiří Černický: Heroin Crystal, Jiří Černický (1966), 2006, From the collection of: Museum of Decorative Arts In Prague
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The long-term exhibition Pleiad of Glass 1946–2019, which has consisted of art-exhibition glass objects, has been expanded to include almost fifty large-scale sculptures from the collections of the Museum of Decorative Arts in Prague.

Pleiad of Glass 1946–2019. Permanent exhibition, 2019, From the collection of: Museum of Decorative Arts In Prague
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Pleiad of Glass 1946–2019. Permanent exhibition, 2019, From the collection of: Museum of Decorative Arts In Prague
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Pleiad of Glass 1946–2019. Permanent exhibition, 2019, From the collection of: Museum of Decorative Arts In Prague
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Pleiad of Glass 1946–2019. Permanent exhibition, 2019, From the collection of: Museum of Decorative Arts In Prague
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Pleiad of Glass 1946–2019. Permanent exhibition, 2019, From the collection of: Museum of Decorative Arts In Prague
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All of the exhibited objects document not only the creativity of Czech artists, which in its day foreshadowed the future developments in art glass in the world, but also the technical virtuosity of the master glassmakers that collaborated in the execution of these artworks. Last but not least, they also attest to the high moral and professional codex of the curators who deserve merit for instigating the creation and preservation of these works of art.

Credits: Story

Text: Milan Hlaveš, Sylva PetrováPhoto: Gabriel Urbánek a Ondřej Kocourek
https://www.upm.cz/pleiad-of-glass-1946-2019/

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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