In Memoriam: Harvey Littleton

Dec 20–Apr 21

Harvey Littleton

Harvey Littleton (United States, 1922–2013) was among the first glass artists to demonstrate that the medium could be melted and blown outside of an industrial setting. His commitment to this practice established him as the founder of the American studio glass movement. Littleton had an almost predetermined affinity for glass; his father headed the department of research and development at Corning Glass Works and was the inventor of Pyrex cookware. When Corning rejected Harvey Littleton’s 1947 proposal for an experimental glass workshop, he turned his attention to pottery and began to teach ceramics at the University of Wisconsin–Madison. His enchantment with glass persisted, however, and in 1957 he studied glass in Venice, Italy, and began experiments in his home pottery studio. In 1962 he conducted a groundbreaking series of glassblowing workshops at Ohio’s Toledo Museum of Art, which are now widely considered to have been the catalyst for the American studio glass movement. That same year, he established the first American college-affiliated glass program, at the University of Wisconsin.

In the 1970s Littleton pioneered the style of glassmaking for which he is best known, incorporating rainbow-colored loops, twists, tubes, and geometric forms. Color was always a primary concern in Littleton’s glassworks, and he used fiberglass marbles and metallic sulfates to achieve deep combinations of overlaying colors. Falling Blue (1969) is exemplary of the technique: comprised of five lyrically formed tubes of turquoise-blue glass, it embodies the power and elegance of ocean waves and the energy of water spouting from a Baroque fountain.

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