CORNING, N.Y. — The Corning Museum of Glass, which holds the largest collection of René Lalique materials at a public institution, will present a new exhibition dedicated to the French artist and designer. On view May 17–January 5, “René Lalique: Enchanted by Glass” will trace Lalique’s storied career from high-society jeweler to global entrepreneur.
The exhibition will also provide new insights into Lalique’s working methods by bringing together nearly 200 pieces of jewelry, glass objects, rare production molds and design drawings, dating from about 1893 to the artist’s death in 1945.
Lalique (1860–1945) was a successful jeweler who cemented his reputation for innovative design at the 1900 Paris Exposition, where he won top honors. Following the exposition, he turned from jewelry design to focus exclusively on the creation of luxury glass products. Lalique elevated pressed and molded glassware to a fine art form through his designs and creative mass-production techniques. His aesthetic choices informed the styles of Art Nouveau and Art Deco in France, and the objects he created have become icons of these eras.
The Corning Museum’s collection of Lalique materials is unrivaled. In 2011, collectors Stanford and Elaine Steppa donated nearly 400 objects to the museum, encompassing many of Lalique’s best-known works in glass, including perfume bottles, mold-blown and pressed-glass vases, ashtrays, boxes, clocks, car mascots, lamps, statuettes, inkwells, blotters and tableware. The gift brought the museum’s collection to more than 600 objects, spanning Lalique’s career. The museum’s Rakow Library holds more than 2,000 documents relating to his glass production.
“The exhibition is an outgrowth of Stanford and Elaine Steppa’s remarkable gift,” said Karol Wight, executive director of the Corning Museum of Glass. “The Steppa Collection makes possible the museum’s ability to tell Lalique’s life story from start to finish. CMoG’s collection is unparalleled both in its depth and breadth of Lalique materials. Nowhere else in the world are visitors able to learn so comprehensively about this renowned master glassmaker.”
“René Lalique is a pivotal figure in the history of late Nineteenth-early Twentieth Century glass,” said Kelley Elliott, exhibition curator and curatorial assistant of modern glass at the Corning Museum. “Lalique designed decorative glass for every part of the home, he was seminal in the early success of the French perfume industry, he introduced decorative glass into architecture, luxury trains and cruise ships, and he established a legacy of excellence and innovation in luxury glass production.”
First in jewelry design and then in glass manufacturing, Lalique pushed the boundaries to create unique and never-before-seen objects. In doing so, he often pioneered new techniques and processes for integrating, handling and/or shaping glass. The exhibition will examine key innovations in Lalique’s career through the display of molds, design drawings and finished pieces.
Complementing the museum’s extensive permanent collection of Lalique objects, 14 unique pieces of jewelry, decorative objects and designs by Lalique are on loan from the Musée des arts décoratifs in Paris; the Calouste Gulbenkian Museum in Lisbon; the Walters Art Museum in Baltimore; the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts in Richmond; the National Museum of American History, the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C.; and the Chazen Museum of Art in Madison, Wis.
A fully illustrated book, published by the museum in association with Yale University Press, accompanies the exhibition. It features hundreds of color photographs of individual pieces of glass and original wax and plaster models selected from the museum’s extensive collection.
A companion exhibition in the museum’s Rakow Library will further contextualize Lalique and survey the groundbreaking glass objects created by Lalique and some of his European contemporaries, including Maurice Marinot, Auguste Herbst, Emile Gallé, and Val St. Lambert. On view May 17–January 4, “Designing for a New Century: Works on Paper by Lalique and his Contemporaries” will feature design drawings, trade catalogs, period photographs and rare books from the Rakow Library’s special collections.
The Corning Museum of Glass is at 1 Museum Way. For additional information, www.cmog.org, 800-732-6845 or 607-937-5371.