Published: September 19, 2000
A Retrospective of a 1940 Exhibition
NEW YORK CITY – Steuben, renowned for its design of sculptural and functional crystal works, will present a landmark retrospective of its 1940 exhibition “Twenty-Seven Contemporary Artists” in the new Corning Incorporated Gallery at Steuben, October 2 to 29. This will be the first public showing of original signed drawings and sketches by some of the most famous artists of that period.
The drawings were commissioned by Steuben as designs for a collection of crystal vessels that formulated one of the most extraordinary exhibitions in the history of glassmaking. Historic photographs and documents, and several of the original glass works on loan from private collectors and major museums, will be on display.
In 1937, John M. Gates, then the director of Steuben, met Henri Matisse at the Paris Exposition, and presented several photographs of large engraved pieces that Steuben was currently showing at the Paris Exposition. To his delight, Gates found that Matisse was keenly interested in them, and after seeing one of the objects, Matisse expressed interest in creating a design for Steuben to be engraved in crystal. Encouraged by Matisse’s interest, and confident that crystal could be the medium of high artistic expression, Gates set out to “gather the greatest contemporary artists in Europe and America into a single group for the purpose of proving that conviction.”
With Matisse’s help, 26 other artists of the period – internationally-renowned painters, sculptors and printmakers – were commissioned. The resulting collection of bowls, vases and plates took three years to complete and included works by Henri Matisse, Georgia O’Keeffe, Salvador Dali, Isamu Noguchi, Thomas Hart Benton, Giorgio de Chirico, Jean Cocteau, Paul Manship, Andre Derain, Raoul Dufy, Fernand Leger, Aristide Maillol, Grant Wood and Steuben’s own design director, sculptor Sidney Waugh.
The collection was presented in a highly acclaimed exhibition that ran at Steuben’s Fifth Avenue shop from January 10 through February 14, 1940. The exhibition was so popular and attendance so large, that several times a day, the doors of the Steuben Building had to be locked while lines of people waited on Fifth Avenue.
At the close of this exhibition, the original signed drawings and sketches will become part of the collection of The Juliette K. and Leonard S. Rakow Research Library, the world’s most comprehensive library on the history and art of glass. Marie McKee, President and CEO of Steuben, will officially present the drawings, donated by Steuben, to David Whitehouse, Executive Director of The Corning Museum of Glass, during a ceremony at the opening reception on October 2, 6 to 8 pm.
The Rakow Library recently opened the doors to a new 32,000-square-foot permanent home a Five Museum Way, in Corning. It is a public facility that welcomes both museum visitors and glass researchers to explore its wide-ranging collection of books, magazines, trade and auction catalogues, personal and corporate archives, videos and slides.
Founded in 1903 and acquired by Corning Incorporated in 1918, Steuben is an American company named after Steuben County, N.Y., where the company’s design studio and sole glassworks facility are still located.
The Corning Incorporated Gallery is at 667 Madison Avenue at 61st Street. Admission is free and hours are Monday-Friday, 10 am to 7 pm; Saturday, 10 am to 6 pm; and Sunday, noon-5 pm.
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