by Kelley Jo Elliott. Corning Museum of Glass; Yale University Press, May 2014. 384 p.ill. ISBN 97803000205114 (cl.), $75.00.
Reviewed May 2015
Jane Carlin, Library Director, Collins Memorial Library, University of Puget Sound, email@example.com
This beautifully produced book was published in conjunction with the exhibit of the same name held at the Corning Museum of Glass from May 17, 2014 to January 4, 2015. Lavishly illustrated with several hundred color plates representing the artist's oeuvre, including drawings, jewelry, lighting, perfume bottles, as well as lesser known works such as automobile mascots and smoking accessories, the publication serves as a reference compendium of the work of noted French glass artist, René Lalique. What is particularly unique to this publication is the compilation of the variety of work in one volume, most from the permanent collection of the Corning, along with scholarly essays on the artist that thoughtfully tell his story from his beginning as a jewelry designer in the late nineteenth century to his rise as one of the most influential glass artists of the art nouveau period in France. The reader can trace the artist's evolution from creator of corsage ornaments in cast glass, enamel, and diamonds to architectural glass, such as the panel for the grand staircase in Wannamaker's Department Store in Philadelphia. This is one of the few publications on the artist to bring together the diversity of his artistic contributions in one volume.
Kelley Jo Elliott, exhibition curator and principal author, has done an exemplary job of compiling historical photographs and archival documents that chronicle Lalique's work as well as unique insights into the design process. Her introductory essay is packed full of scholarly references and details important to academic study, but the tone is engaging so as to appeal to the general public. Elizabeth Everton, Concordia University, contributed an essay titled The Third Republic in Glass, which addresses the political and social aspects of French culture and society during 1870-1940 and places Lalique's work in the context of the period with references to other artists, writers, and poets. The volume concludes with an essay by Tina Oldknow, curator of modern glass at the Corning, in which she outlines the history of Lalique collecting at the museum. This essay is a valuable source for students of patronage, collection history, and provenance study.
The publication includes an extensive bibliography and timeline. Each essay is accompanied by extensive notes, but the beautiful color plates are the high point of this large volume, and they certainly enchant the reader. Credit is extended to the photographers: Nicolas L. Williams, Andrew M. Fortune, Allison S. Lavine and Martin J. Pierce. This book is an important contribution to the study of this noted artist and would be equally at home in the academic art library or in a personal collection.