The Atmosphere of Reverie

Glass from Scottish Arts & Crafts to French Art Nouveau

Encountered in countless forms and endless colour combinations, it is not surprising that glass enjoys a dedicated following at auction and McTear’s are pleased to present two private collections representing Scottish and French glassmaking in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.



Founded as ‘The City Flint Glassworks’ in 1850 in Kyle Street by the latterly eponymous James Couper and Sons, this Glaswegian factory worked successfully in industrial glass and domestic tableware for decades before the influence of the Arts & Crafts period and two of its great talents, George Walton and Christopher Dresser, led the firm into producing a new range of glass.



Named Clutha after the ancient Gaelic for the Clyde, this range was designed to reflect ancient and organic forms in the spirit of artistic revival that embodied the Arts & Crafts movement. Those pieces destined for the famed Liberty & Co department store in London which were designed by Dresser himself bore a ‘Designed by C D’ etched mark and command a hefty premium at auction. However, the Clutha range itself comprises a broader range of handblown works very much in the spirit of the age with inclusions and imperfections all a part of the appeal and this is very much reflected in the works included in this sale with lopsided vases and frothy internal structures amongst the unique characteristics showcased. With a wide range of form, function and colour on offer at the more affordable end of the market, this sale presents an excellent opportunity for new and existing collectors to begin or expand their collection of a rather idiosyncratic, essentially Glaswegian glassworks.

In contrast, imperfection was un mot non-dit in the workshops of Émile Gallé, Daum Frères, Gabriel Argy-Rousseau and Francis-Emile Décorchemont , all master glassmakers in France in the early 20th century, all of whom are represented in this auction.

Indeed, Décorchemont is described by the Met Museum as ‘a master of pate-de-verre’ and his works only infrequently appear on the open market as the technical complexity of production meant his output was much less than some contemporaries. Although we have moved on from Arts & Crafts Glasgow to Art Nouveau Paris, the theme of revival does carry through as Décorchemont ‘s pioneering creations were in fact adaptations of an Ancient Egyptian method of glassmaking using coloured powdered glass, oxides and an adhesive paste; a dragonfly centrepiece features here in an attractive rich blue colourway displaying the signature ‘dense translucency’ of this medium.



A second highlight of this collection is a very rare Swan vase by the celebrated Daum Frères of Nancy. An exquisite example of cameo glass, itself a technique rooted in Roman practice, a highly detailed and complex scene of a swan swimming in a pond beside a wooded bank has been carved through fused layers of coloured glass in what is a technical and artistic tour-de-force. Despite only measuring just over 12cm high, the piece offered here is in fact among the larger recorded of this design which makes only rare appearances at auction. International interest is expected for this and the other pieces forming this private collection which also boasts Louis Comfort Tiffany, Amalric Walter and Muller Croismare.

When viewing and handling these pieces in all their virtuosity of artistic design and manufacturing process, it is certainly easy to lose oneself in ‘The Atmosphere of Reverie’, as Gallé put it when discussing the art of glass production, that they were intended to induce; an atmosphere of intense competition is expected in the auction gallery when these rare works come under the hammer in Glasgow on 24 November.




For a complimentary, no-obligation valuation, visit our Glasgow Galleries or contact a specialist on 0141 810 2880 or


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