Thomas S. Buechner was the Corning Museum’s founding director, and he was a well-known painter who specialized in portraiture. This series of small paintings on glass panels was inspired by Buechner’s favorite opera, Der Ring des Nibelungen (The Ring of the Nibelung). The Ring is a cycle of four epic operas by Richard Wagner (German, 1813–1883) that are loosely based on characters from the Norse sagas and the Nibelungenlied. Wagner wrote the libretto and music over the course of about 26 years, from 1848 to 1874. The four operas that constitute the Ring cycle are: Das Rheingold (The Rhine Gold); Die Walküre (The Valkyrie); Siegfried; and Götterdämmerung (Twilight of the Gods).
This panel is one of a group of 10 paintings that were given to the Museum by Buechner’s family.
The paintings are from a series made, in 1987, while Buechner was an artist in residence at Pilchuck Glass School in Stanwood, Washington. Buechner enjoyed traveling to Seattle, where he saw the Seattle Opera’s productions of The Ring many times. At Pilchuck, he was introduced to the schwarzlot (transparent black enamel and silver stain) painting technique by the artist Ursula Huth (German, b. 1952).
In addition to the paintings on glass, the Museum owns 20 blown glass vessels, designed by Buechner at Pilchuck, which are also inspired by characters and narratives from Der Ring.