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Priceless Artwork from Pyrex Glass: Věra Lišková and Her Soaring Glass Sculptures

Published on February 23th, 2017 in Entertainment

  • Věra Lišková with her sculpture, Return of the Birds, taken at the opening of Toronto’s The Art of Glass Gallery in 1977. Photo, Harold Barkley/Toronto Star via Getty Image, http://www.gettyimages.com/license/502531733

  • Hedgehog, before 1981. Colorless borosilicate glass – Google Images

  • Sculpture designed by Vera Liskova – Google Images

If you’re like most people, your kitchen cabinets probably contain at least one item made of borosilicate glass (known in the USA as Pyrex). If not, then you’ve surely handled this type of heavy, clear glass at some point in a science class, as its unusual hardness and ability to withstand high temperatures have made it the standard material for laboratory equipment like beakers and test tubes – as well as a popular choice for measuring cups and casserole dishes.

 

Borosilicate glass has been used for decades by Czech artisans who manipulate it with small torches to create whimsical figurines, examples of which are abundantly available in tourist souvenir shops throughout Prague.

 

Pyrex baking pie dish. Photo, http://www.vermontironstove.com/parts/pie_plate.html

 

It was also the medium of choice for the world-renowned Czech glass artist Věra Lišková (1924-1985). Known for her pioneering artistic use of borosilicate glass in the 1960s, Lišková exploited its unique malleability to make expressive abstract sculptures. This attribute can be seen in her piece entitled Hedgehog (ca. 1972-1980), which was produced by heating glass tubes, inflating and manipulating the hot glass over a torch to create individual spiky elements, and then sealing the elements to one another.

 

Věra Lišková, Hedgehog, ca. 1972-1980. Colorless borosilicate glass. Corning Museum of Glass, 81.3.11. Photo, http://www.cmog.org/artwork/hedgehog

 

Another sculpture, entitled Anthem of Joy in Glass (1977), is considered one of the most ambitious works of Lišková’s long career. Inspired by the form of musical notes, it communicates the emotion and energy of harmonious sound.

 

Věra Lišková, Anthem of Joy in Glass, 1977. Colorless borosilicate glass. Corning Museum of Glass, 79.3.14. Photo, http://www.cmog.org/artwork/anthem-joy-glass

 

Video link about Anthem of Joy in Glass, Corning Museum of Glass https://youtu.be/njbDiy51-Qk

 

Although Lišková worked during the period when Czechoslovakia was under communist rule, glass was considered by the state to be a medium that was more “functional” than “artistic” in its purpose. As a result, glass art was censored less strictly than other media, allowing glass artists to express various degrees of political engagement. This sense of artistic freedom can be seen in another important Lišková sculpture from 1968 entitled Explosion, which was created during the same year as the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia and likely references that traumatic period in Czech history.

 

Explosion, 1968. Colorless borosilicate glass. Photo, http://www.artnet.com/artists/vera-liskova/explosion-ShTUCSUDk1XjjI9vnfFrfg2

 

Lišková’s work plays a major role in the history of 20th-century Czech glass art, as evidenced by its inclusion in last year’s 7+1 Masters of Czech Glass exhibition at the Kampa Museum in Prague.

 

Some of her smaller sculptures occasionally become available for purchase at Prague art auction houses, so if you like what you see here, keep an eye out for her name and you might just get lucky!

 

In the meantime, you can browse a selection of photographs of her work here.

 

Amy Hughes, M. A.

Ph.D. Candidate

Fulbright Alumna and Visiting Research Fellow, Ústav dějin umění, Akademie věd České republiky, v. v. i

Art and Design History and Visual Culture Studies

University of Wisconsin-Madison

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