Post War Czech Glass Design’ by Mark Hill
The cover design had me drooling. I remembered the pleasure of the Christmas tin of Quality Street, dipped into daily long into New Year. Those coloured cellophane wrappers I collected, pressed between the pages of a book, hoarded. Finally, once the frosts were gone I produced my own stained glass window. I was eight years old. I realize now this was the start of my love affair with glass. For me, no house is a home until it has been bedecked with chunky lumps of jewel bright glass. Only now, in retirement do I have time to assess what I have collected. The pieces of Murano, Daum, Holmgard, Whitefriars etc have been relatively easy to identify. Now, thanks to Mark Hill, more of those loved unattributed pieces can be recognized.
Intriguing and inviting, the cover shows us exactly what we are going to be introduced to. Inside I found the information clearly and confidently presented. It gives an interesting historical perspective and underpins the importance of Czechoslovakian glass manufacturing to European design and production. Graham Cooley and Mark Hill have collaborated well – this is a book for all. Experts will applaud this as a further step in devolution, allowing collectors to identify a mass of previously unidentified art work. For ordinary collectors, the book will provide a valuable start to their exploration behind the glass curtain.
The appearance of such an eclectic design range in the post war period is hard to comprehend: despite the postwar restrictions of the ‘iron curtain’, many previously unidentified artists worked on distilling themes, re-interpreting forms and pushing Czech glass-making along darker but parallel lines to its counterparts in the west.
The range of Czech excellence is finally revealed. Collectors, expert or inexperienced, will now able be to identify those loved pieces, previously unattributed, but bought and held onto because of the gut feeling that here was a ‘good’ piece.
The photography by Graham Rae is excellent throughout; I shimmied and shook with pleasure, as the glass, illumined against the white page, displayed its vitality and beauty. In some photographs the sensuality of the piece and the skill of the artist appear to metamorphose into life before our eyes.
The ‘How to Use This Catalogue’ page is well organized – by technique, then by named designer, etc etc - makes it a thorough but simple reference work. I found the colored edge tabs invaluable on outings!
With so much information available on Italian, Scandinavian, French and British glass, it has served unscrupulous dealers well to assign Czech pieces to other countries – now this stunning glass is establishing its own place in the market. I lose count of the times I’ve been offered a Czech piece as ‘probably Murano or Whitefriars, might even be Scandinavian’ when I’ve known in my bones that the pieces were good, but misattributed. The lack of makers’ marks or labels has made this impossible to prevent, but more of these are being identified, and the book shows several examples that identify factory or designer. With this publication available, many of us will be having to reassess our collections.
This book certainly whets the appetite. A modest 148 pages long, it is to be followed later this year by Marcus Newhall’s more specialized study between them they will offer the collector a serious base from which to explore Czech glass. ‘Hi Sklo Lo Sklo’ is a brilliant tout-about book: tucked away in my bag, it has already visited – and been used at - several boot sales and glass fairs. The tease is the last image on page 148, a green flashed, colourless lead crystal vase by an as yet unknown designer, cut with circular and oval lenses through which we can view the past as it is explored in the 21stC. Thanks to the Hi Sklo Lo Sklo touring exhibition and Marks book, the curtains have finally been drawn back
Steph Newham Oct. 2008