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Solo for a Glass Blower's Pipe
June 20, 2006 - October 1, 2006

glass_production20 June 2006 - 1 October 2006

The exhibition in the Arab Hall and Rotunda of the Winter Palace features about 150 glass objects made by contemporary Russian artists. These exhibits are part of the collection of original artistic glass which was created by the curators of the Department of History of Russian Culture and was enlarged in 2002 with the addition of hundreds of objects donated to the State Hermitage by the ROZISO Gallery in Moscow.

The exhibition is divided up according to the urban centers of glass production, and the visitor can thereby trace the development of artistic glass in our country over the past 40 years. The exhibition presents not only works by masters in the largest glass factories but also works coming from small private studios that were selected by the curator and received by the museum on loan for temporary safekeeping.

The Leningrad Factory of Artistic Glass (1940-1997), at which sulphide-zinc glass was invented, is represented by several famous names: B.A. Smirnov, Yu. A. Muntian, N.M. Goncharova, Yu.M. Biakov and N.B. Tikhomirova.

B.A. Smirnov, whose decorative composition entitled Glass Blowers was chosen as the programmatic work of the exhibition, was for a long time the head of the Leningrad glass school: he was responsible for all the technical methods used in working with this material. To this day many glass masters consider him to be their teacher.

Contemporary trends in artistic glass fabrication in St Petersburg can be seen in the unique original works by the Makgraf Group; by V. P. Samoshkina and I.B.Tomsky, teachers in the Department of Ceramics and Glass of the St Petersburg Industrial Arts Academy of St Petersburg; and also by the owners of private glass workshops: N.P. Malevskaya-Malevich, N.B. Yuzhakova and the Ivanov family, among others.

The Gus-Khrustalny Factory, which was founded in the middle of the 19th century in Vladimir Province, has preserved and continued for more than 150 years the traditions of producing works from crystal, colored and clear glass. In the 20th century the craftsmen of this factory V.S. Muratov, A.S. Kurilov, V.S. Zaitsev and O.I. Kozlova created true masterpieces while respecting all the labor-intensive processes of glass production: blowing molten glass into forms using glass-blowers' pipes, pressing, firing in the furnace and cutting, etc.

The Diatkovsky Crystal Factory in Bryansk Oblast was founded in 1790 by the Maltsov family of industrialists and merchants. It is today one of the largest in the world. The rich experience of an artistic culture accumulated over successive generations of masters in this factory has been used and updated in the works of Soviet and Russian artists. The exhibition displays well known works of several of them: the Golden Fern by I.V. Machnev and the Country Wedding by V.I. Kotov (1980s).

One other major glass works still in operation is the Red May Factory (beginning in 1923) in Vyshni Volochek. This factory was originally founded by the Bolotin merchant family back in 1873. This was the first factory in Russia to make colored glass in a varied color range. Unique works by honored artists of the Red May Factory were shown a number of times in exhibitions and art fairs in many countries around the world. S.M. Beskinskaya, V.Ya. Shevchenko, E.Yu. Esikova and K.N. Litvina are among the outstanding artists whose careers were linked to the Red May Factory.

Solo for a Glass Blower's Pipe is the first exhibition of unique pieces of artistic glass in the Hermitage. In 1967 and 1989 the museum had retrospective exhibitions of artistic glass which also showed modern works. Today's exhibition provides a much more complete survey of different trends in the art of Russian glass production during the 20th and 21st centuries.

A scholarly catalogue of the exhibition has been published. It covers works that are held in the glass collection of the Department of History of Russian Culture, as well as in private collections.

The curator of the exhibition, author of the introductory article and compiler of the catalogue is leading researcher in the Department of History of Russian Culture Tamara Alekseevna Malinina.

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