Story by Barbara Angelakis
Photos by Manos Angelakis
Italy has Murano and its hand-made rococo glass beauties; France has Baccarat, producing delightful hand-cut crystal pieces; Scandinavia has Orrefors, the UK has Waterford and the U.S. has Steuben. Of course there are many more well-known and well-loved art glass producers; Galle, Lalique, Lobmeyr, Val Saint Lambert, Daum, Kosta Boda, Loetz, Mdina, Mosser and Tiffany to name just a few of the many world-wide producers of objet d’art crafted out of glass.
The eclectic Newark Museum has been gifted a major portion of the Steuben Glass collection of Thomas N. Armstrong III. The exhibition entitled “Unexpected Color: A Journey through Glass” opened May 1, 2019 and will run through the spring of 2020, after which many of the items will remain in the museum’s permanent collection. The Newark Museum currently features ancient glass items from Egypt, Greece, Rome, and China; the origin of Frederick Carder’s fascination with glass in all its many forms and color possibilities. Plus there is a marvelous collection of glassware from the 19th and 20th centuries in the Ballantine House, a Victorian mansion that was built by the Newark beer-brewing family of Jeannette and John Holme Ballantine in 1885 and is part of the Newark Museum. It is a perfect treasure trove of Victorian period rooms and was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1985.
Frederick Carder (1863-1963) began his glass making career in his native England after he had studied chemistry and blended his love for the one with the help of the other. When Carder relocated to the U.S. he co-founded the Steuben Glass Works in Corning, New York where he was chief designer and craftsperson for 30 years. His talent for reproducing the iridescent ancient colored glass he so admired by mixing different chemicals within the glass led to his discovery of Aurene (Au for gold, Rene for old English Shine or Skeen). This iridescent glowing glass, shaped into a myriad of bowls and vases, perfume bottles and tableware spanned the art nouveau/art deco years of the early 1900’s. He also created Blue Aurene and used the colors in combination, plus he developed bubbling Cintra, and the rare Rouge Flambé. Popular also was his opaque Ivory and Mirror Black molded glass designs. His desire for new shapes and colors led to a remarkable body of work of which the exhibition showcases over 130 examples. In later years, the company concentrated on mostly clear crystal products phasing out the color glass designs and techniques developed by Carder, however Carder remained with the company until retirement in 1959 during which time he continued his experiments, specifically with the cire perdue (lost wax) technique. Happily many of his original pieces remain in private collections and in the Frederick Carder Gallery at the Corning Museum of Glass and now can be seen at the Newark Museum exhibition.
Tom Armstrong was a connoisseur of all art and was for a period of time Director of The Whitney Museum of American Art. His homes were decorated with his finely attuned assortment of objects which he displayed to maximum advantage melding art, architecture and landscape seamlessly. Armstrong died in 2011 and this year his family donated this impressive Steuben glass collection to the Newark Museum.
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