Solifleur, Clutha series Vase, ca. 1890
Designed by the British designer and design theorist Christopher Dresser, this distinctively tall solifleur (a vase with a long, slender neck for displaying a single flower) Clutha vase is a major example of Dresser’s work and a precursor to the art glass movement.
The name “Clutha” is derived from an ancient name for the River Clyde, which runs through Glasgow. This vase relates to spiral decoration in Roman glass and is very transparent with a few bubbles that suggest an intentional reminder of its “artistic” nature. The piece is formally organized and has a proto-modern aspect. Its clarity connects directly to Dresser’s earlier design writings, such as those from his Principles of Decorative Design (1873), in which he calls for rigid prescriptions for glass creation. Dresser was named in Studio magazine in 1899 as “perhaps the greatest of commercial designers,” so it is not surprising to find that Clutha glass was sold by Liberty in London in the 1890s, marked “Clutha” in mock Celtic script, along with the lotus-flower trademark of Liberty and “Designed by C.D. Registered.”
Although Dresser’s Clutha glass frequently displays irregular patterns in lighter and darker shades, this example shows his more regular combed and spiral pattern. With the various shapes and colors of Clutha glass, no two pieces are identical. Frequently characterized by attenuated necks with furled or wavy rims, Dresser’s vases have been compared to his dissections of flowers.
The machine that enabled glass threads to be applied to the vessel was patented by William J. Hodgetts in 1876; Dresser’s Clutha glass demonstrates the designer’s delight in such inventions. Conceived in an antiquarian spirit but revealing novel techniques, colors, and textures, Clutha was commercially produced, providing an impetus for the production of much late 19th-century art glass. Clutha glass was a forerunner to an expanded interest in both the forms and techniques of European art glass, as well as Tiffany & Co.’s Favrile glass. The acquisition of this piece would greatly advance the museum’s understanding of the development of the arts movement in glass design.
Dresser is one of the most innovative and influential designers of the 19th century, and one who should be collected in depth. Cooper-Hewitt featured his work in a groundbreaking exhibition Shock of the Old: Christopher Dresser’s Design Revolution, in 2004, which subsequently travelled to the Victoria and Albert Museum in London. Cooper-Hewitt has ceramics, furniture, wallcoverings, and metalwork designed by Dresser. The acquisition of this vase would be a valuable addition to the museum’s collection of Dresser’s work, both as a significant piece of glass and as the first example of a glass object designed by Dresser. The vase under consideration would also be the second example of the designer’s later style of the 1890s, joining a sanitary wallpaper. This Clutha vase is an impressive display piece and one that is integral to the history of innovative design.
This object was
General Acquisitions Endowment.
It is credited
Museum purchase from General Acquisitions Endowment Fund.
Its dimensions are
H x diam.: 48.3 x 10.2 cm (19 x 4 in.)
It has the following markings
Underside of base: circular stamp with text and stylized lotus flower in center; top line: "CLUTHA"; lower lines: "DESIGNED BY C.D. / REGISTERED"
Cite this object as
Solifleur, Clutha series Vase, ca. 1890; Scotland; mold-blown glass; H x diam.: 48.3 x 10.2 cm (19 x 4 in.); Museum purchase from General Acquisitions Endowment Fund; 2012-7-1