The metamorphosis of the Glass in the Twentieth century
The opportunity to add to the permanent exhibition at the Museo del Vetro di Murano with the works of the Barry Friedmann Collection establishes a notable and comprehensive extension to the section dedicated to the twentieth century, where techniques used for centuries were employed by master glassmakers to give life to an aesthetic affirming glass as a universally recognised art form.
After the interruption caused by the events of the First World War, the furnaces resumed their activities under the modern influence of rationalism, which advocated simplicity, essentiality and functionality. In the years following the post-war period in Murano, the collaboration with artists at the furnaces became frequent and, indeed, Vittorio Zecchin became artistic director of Cappellin Venini & C., founded in 1921, and undertook to revive the pure forms of sixteenth-century glass, interpreted from Renaissance paintings, such as the large ribbed chalice or the Veronese vase. Other artists, such as painter Guido Cadorin and sculptor Napoleone Martinuzzi, occasionally worked with the companies in Murano. When Cappellin and Venini split in 1925, the latter became artistic director of the new Vetri Soffiati Muranesi Venini & C. where he remained until 1932.
In those years, the sculptor created new forms for glass that reflected his artistic experience, creating a new type of opaque glass incorporating air bubbles or puleghe, and thus called pulegoso, together with severe three-dimensional forms of fruit, cacti and vessels decorated with heavy ribbons or numerous mouths. Umberto Bellotto’s own experience in the field of glass developed in the early 1920s, combining glass with wrought iron, in which he was a skilled craftsman. For the glass, he worked with Vittorio Zecchin and Artisti Barovier, and then designed glass artworks for Pauly & C. A company that was very active in the 1920s and 1930s was the Vetreria Artistica Barovier, which had a technician and designer as its driving force in these years, Ercole Barovier. Another was S.A.L.I.R., which was an important point of reference for engraved glass, for which Guido Balsamo Stella, an etcher, produced some designs, while the engravings were effected by the Bohemian engraver Franz Pelzel.
During the 1930s, glass of a great thickness was accepted in Murano as an integral part of the island’s tradition, while the splendid vitreous fabrics that Carlo Scarpa created for Venini were produced at the end of the 1930s. In the immediate post-war period, after the enforced halt caused by the conflict, the Murano furnaces renewed their activity with fresh vigour, focusing in particular on the study of the chromatic effects of glass.
This in synthesis is the story that has changed the way of producing, creating and even conceiving glass; it cannot be fully described in just a single exhibition as it requires a focus and insight into the individual chapters marking the revival of Murano glass.
And indeed, the works of the Barry Friedmann Collection, which include glass by Bianconi, Buzzi, Nason, Poli, Scarpa and Zecchin, made in the most important and historic Murano factories such as Seguso, Barovier and Toso, Cenedese, Salviati and Venini, establish a group of works that not only enriches the artistic heritage of the museum’s permanent holdings, but will also from time to time open parentheses enabling us carefully to re-examine the roots on which current glass production is based.
These nuclei will provide the starting points for an investigation into the stylistic and formal evolution of creativity in the twentieth century.
Thus, the opportunity offered us will enable us to expand and enrich the core of glass art already on display at the Museo del Vetro di
Murano, while allowing us also to consolidate the range of examples of an inexhaustible production.