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European Virtual Training Centre
for glass arts and techniques

France Pâte de verre


By Aurélie Wellenstein and Olivier Léonard, translated by Steve and Karen Linn

This very ancient technique, antedating the invention of blowing glass on a pipe, was superbly utilized by the Phoenicians and the Egyptians before falling for several centuries into disuse. The treasures of the pharaohs’ tombs have supplied numerous relics : amulets, jewelry, precious embellishments of funerary furniture...

It is not until the XIXth century in France that Henry Cros (1840 - 1907) symbolist sculptor and archeology enthusiast, rediscovered pate de verre and made it his medium of predilection. His research aroused the powerful interest of, among others, the ceramic artist Albert Dammouse, the industrialist Georges Despret, Ringel d’ Illzach, and Amalric Walter associate of the brothers Daum in Nancy.

Following the lead of these pioneers, two great artists of the Art Déco period, Francois Decorchemont and Gabriel Argy-Rousseau, became famous for their work in this medium, each of them elaborating original styles and methods. They quickly won emulators like Frederic Carder in the United States, and Sotoichi Koshiba in Japan.

After a brief period of obscurity pate de verre returned to notoriety in France thanks to Daum and their collaborations in the 1960’s with internationally renowned artists such as Salvador Dali ; and then in the next decade thanks to Antoine and Etienne Leperlier the grandsons of the great Decorchemont. We should also mention after them the remarkable work of Keith Cummings, Diana Hobson and Tessa Clegg.

Throughout the world from France to Japan, passing by way of New Zealand, artists today are fascinated by pate de verre and continually seek to broaden its range of possibilities, like the American artist James Watkins in his dream-like still lives so reminiscent of the paintings of Morandi, and David Reeckie, merciless creator of pathetic clown-like characters. The delicate glass lace of Etsuko Nichi and the naive bowls of Emma Wood are spirited transformations of Dammouse’s tradition.