Art: New Glass

2 minute read

On the clustered islets of Murano, a short gondola ride from Venice, master glassblowers have huffed and puffed since the 13th century, producing some of the world’s finest glass. For centuries. Murano glassmakers isolated themselves from alien ideas, but lately the masters have been experimenting with a new form—a collaboration between glassblowers and great modern painters.

Last week in an exhibit on the Lido, Venetians and visitors got a chance to inspect 215 of the Murano masters’ fragile new pieces, designed by 64 artists of ten nations. Among the glass doves, sea monsters and slender figurines was evidence that some painters had found the medium too unfamiliar and inflexible. French Architect-Painter Le Corbusier had ignored the fragility of glass and wrought a massive form which he called Architectural Harmony. France’s Georges Braque’s facial silhouettes on a blue salad bowl were clumsy. But the U.S.’s Alexander Calder’s finely drawn glass wire twisted into a bird form intriguingly suggested a pigeon in a jato takeoff. Pablo Picasso’s heavy-handled vase embossed with a red-and-black cartoon face (Burlesco) was good fun. And Italy’s Renato Guttuso. who designed a pitcher shaped like the face of a snarling, shark-toothed buffoon, happily wedded design and medium.

Painters and glassblowers had worked side by side at the furnaces. Brittle creations sometimes exploded on cooling, requiring tedious remakes. Old Master Aldo Bon blew steadily for three hours on Picasso’s Burlesco. Exhausted in the end, he gasped: “What a sweat! Even for Picasso I would not do another like this!”

More Must-Reads from TIME

Contact us at