Classics of Modern Design

The term Modernism is used to define a shift in philosophy, art and design that occurred in the early 20th Century. Stretching from Central Europe to the United States, Modernism encompasses a range of movements and styles defined by the rejection of tradition and a self-conscious desire to create something new. While embracing the potential of machine age technology, innovative designers turned to rectilinear geometry, abstraction, minimal decoration and the use of industrial forms and materials. Significant glass designers of this period were often architects, industrial designers, or artists who designed in different materials.

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    Well-known German architect and industrial designer Peter Behrens designed this set of drinking glass for the dining room of his own home in 1900-1901. The graceful, geometrically balanced forms are highlighted by the contrasting colorless bowls and ruby-red stems.
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    The Viennese architect and designer Josef Hoffmann (1870-1956) deplored the poor quality of mass-produced objects. He belonged to the avant-garde group of Austrian artists known as the Vienna Secession and founded the Wiener Werkstätte (Vienna Workshop) in 1903. Note the clean lines, lack of decoration, and emphasis on form.
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    This set of wine glasses was designed around 1907 by Otto Prutscher, one of Joseph Hoffman’s students in Vienna. Prutscher designed in many materials, including ceramics, wood, textiles, and silver. The form and simple, abstract decoration reflect the artistic preferences of the Vienna Secession and the Wiener Werkstätte.
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    Jan Kotera designed this glass for the Harrach Glassworks, Nový Svet (Neuwelt), Bohemia, in 1904-1910. Kotera was an influential and highly regarded architect who was one of the pioneers of the Cubist style in Czech architecture. This particular set is a reproduction, made in 1996 by Moser Glassworks.
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    This Veronese vase, designed in 1921, echoes the glass vessels depicted in the Annunciation to the Virgin, Paolo Veronese’s painting in the Galleria dell’Accademia, Venice. Vittorio Zecchin’s designs, which reflect that he was trained as a painter and inspired by the Italian Renaissance, have become icons of the modern style.
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    In 1917, the painter Edward Hald (1883-1980), who had studied with Henri Matisse, joined the design department of Orrefors Glasbruk in Sweden. Negerhyddan was the first of Hald’s designs in which the engraved illustration was perfectly adapted to the form of the covered vase.
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    René Lalique (French, 1860-1945) manufactured a wide range of art glass using modern industrial techniques, such as pressing. The Victoire (Victory) hood ornament, designed in 1928, is a classic Art Deco design that evokes the speed and daring of driving.
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    Reuben Haley’s futuristic design was inspired by Cubist paintings he saw while visiting the 1925 Exposition des Arts Décoratifs et Industriels Modernes in Paris. Available in amber, grey, dark green and lavender, the pattern was named Ruba Rombic, from ruba'i, a Persian epic poem, and rhombic, meaning an irregular form with no right angles.
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    With John Monteith Gates, the sculptor Sidney Waugh developed a modern yet classical style for the new Steuben colorless glass introduced in the early 1930s. Steuben, like Orrefors, used wheel engraving as a decorative technique. The Gazelle Bowl, designed in 1935, is an icon of American Art Deco design.
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    Walter Dorwin Teague was one of the first industrial designers in the United States. The “Bluebird” radio, designed in 1934, is a classic example of American Modern or “Streamline Moderne,” a variant of the Art Deco style. Teague also designed for Steuben Glass.
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    Ladislav Sutnar’s tea service, an early application of Czech design in borosilicate (heat resistant) glass, includes a teapot, creamer, sugar, rum flask, and cups and saucers based on an ellipsoid form. As an example of well-designed utilitarian ware, it represents Sutnar’s desire to provide high-quality, affordable products for middle class Czech homes. Sutnar is best known as a graphic designer and the originator of putting parentheses around area codes in American phone numbers.
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    Bauhaus metalworker, industrial designer, and teacher, Wilhelm Wagenfeld brought practicality to glass design. Created for moving food directly from the refrigerator to the table, his pressed “Kubus” modular containers designed in 1938 were transparent, space saving, and hygienic.
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    The "Savoy" Vase is one of the most famous designs of the internationally renowned architect and designer Alvar Aalto (Finnish, 1898-1976). Designed in 1936, it is a classic example of Scandinavian modernism and is still in production today.