Influence of Murano Glass Art

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Venice, and especially island of Murano, has been regarded as the heart of murano glass art for the last seven hundred years. Ancient Murano glass artists were treated like royalties but were not allowed to leave the island. Venice intended to keep the lucrative monopoly in luxury murano glass making within its borders. But, art does not suffer borders of any kind, and the Murano glass esthetics slowly but surely circled the globe. While glass making took hold in many countries of the world, Murano is still considered 'the Mecca of glass', according to Sadao Ukai, president of the Ukai Art Museum in Japan. For seven centuries, Venice and Murano remained the heart and soul of the universe of glass art.

Even with the well known fact that many glass making techniques originate in Venice, it is difficult to pinpoint why Venice and Murano still hold such strong influence on glass making among contemporary glass artists. The closest to the truth is probably the fact that Murano glass artists always managed to weave craft and art to such extent that they could not be distinguished from each other. That is the reason why so many murano art glass maestros today consider themselves 'Murano glass artists' and strive to achieve high artistic and technical excellence to justify such title. This, for so many, meant a trip to Murano.

It all started with the visit of Harvey K. Littleton to Murano in the 50s. This ceramic artist visited a number of small murano art glass factories and discovered that it was possible to make a small, studio size furnace to be used for blown glass. Until then, murano art glass could be blown only in factories, what seriously impeded growth of murano art glass in the USA. The result of Harvey Littleton's discovery was the flourishing of blown glass art in the country and emergence of a number of talented glass artists.

But, the results were still relatively crude. There was a gap in knowledge, which many felt could be filled only by the visit to the heart and soul of murano art glass making - Murano.

The pilgrimage started in the 60's, thanks to the willingness of one Murano art glass house to allow foreigners to watch and learn. The director of the house of Venini, Ludovico Diaz de Santillana, was the first to open his doors to American artists. The first American glass artists to come to Murano were Dale Chihuly in 1968 and Richard Marquis in 1969. Chihuly was fascinated by colors and free forms, and particularly by the team work in glassblowing, while Marquis mostly worked on specific techniques such as “filigrana” and “murrine”.

The influence of Murano art glass making on American artists was not limited to the visits of Americans to Murano. Upon return, they became the biggest promoters of Murano glass art, and in 1969, Dale Chihuly became the head of the glass department at the Rhode Island School of Design, where he incorporated what he learned in Murano into his teaching. In 1971, he founded the Pilchuck Glass School in Seattle.

The next wave of influence was created by the Murano glass artists who came to the USA to teach. The first to come in 1978 was Checcho Ongaro, followed in 1979 by Lino Tagliapietra, whose influence on contemporary American glass art is considered pivotal.

It is estimated that there are about 300 glass artists in the USA, and most of them live and work in the Pacific North West. Most of them are strongly influenced by the Murano glass art esthetics and for that reason Seattle is called “the Venice of the West." This influence is extended on the particularly Murano use of soda-lime glass, classic proportions of blown glass objects, strong colors, and high standard of production. Although it is certain that American artists are developing their own, unique artistic language, the influence of Venice is fairly easy to notice.

Murano Art Glass | Murano Glass and Murano Glass Art Jewelry imported from Venice, Italy.

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