The endless possibilities of glass in Archimede Seguso’s art

Archimede Seguso - Elefante

In Piazza San Marco in Venice, upon entering Archimede Seguso’s shop, one is dazzled by the splendor of original and incomparable glass works: home accessories, lamps, jewelry, gifts, glassware… Here, however, you may only have a partial view of the entire production of the master glazier, who died in 1999 at the age of ninety, after dedicating his life to creations that are now exhibited in museums all over the world.

The memory of this man is indelible for those who have met him: shy, brilliant and modest with an inordinate passion for artistic glass. Since the beginning of his simple and industrious life, Archimede Seguso demonstrated an unusual mastery of all techniques, inheriting from his ancestors the glassmaking tradition that had begun in 1300 in Murano.

Today, among the glassworks of Murano, the one founded by Archimede Seguso is a gem in Venice’s world of glass. It is run by his son Gino and his grandson Antonio, they perpetuate Archimede’s spirit. “Going into the furnace is exciting: I love working with glass and finding its possibilities” so the master of the ancient art of Venetian glassblowers used to say. Skilled in working with lumen and in the furnace, in his early twenties he became an excellent teacher, standing out for the heavy-glass working, which had just started. Shortly thereafter he became “master of first square”, since then the point man in the furnace.

He developed his innate ability in the massive sculpture, creating works that were presented at the Venice Biennale before the war. Among the most well-known, the animals, the figure in the round of boxer Primo Carnera (1934), the portrait of his future wife (1937) and the thick “bubbly submerged glass” or covered in gold, corroded, or iridescent as “The Zodiac” (1935). Until in 1946, he founded his own studio,  “Archimede Seguso Glass”: in this period he wins Italy over, with lighting for cinemas, theatres, hotels, churches, together with Alberto Sciolari, who distributes them.

Archimede Seguso - Cuore

He  created “creased”, the “rings” (1948), the “needle-like”, the “opaque gold”, the “naked iridescent in black and crystal” (1949). The fifties are dedicated to research and innovation techniques of glass working, with the “laces” (1952) and “feathers” (1956), to the study of color, which is important and recurrent in his work, as the “gold coral”, the “recalled tape”, the “zig zag”, the “lozenge”, the “amber green spots,” the “ivory gold”, the “submerged”, the “alabaster”. In 1952, with Giuseppe Santomaso, Archimede Seguso draws up a series of brightly colored handles for telephone booth doors, a prelude to the great panel designed and built for the Ice Stadium in Cortina d’Ampezzo on the occasion of the Winter Olympics 1956.

In the sixties he creates “filament” (1962), “Aleanti” (1964), “Colors and overlapping bands” (1966), “Starry Watermark” and “Onion” (1968). The compound chandeliers  with elements are also from this period, while the “Optical” are from 1972. Archimede never neglects his old love for sculpture in solid: he creates works such as “Head of a sleeping woman” (1971), which is closely linked  to the alto-relievo “Sleeping Woman sitting on a bench” (1951), “Bud” and “Double Eclipse” (1986), “Head of a Child” (1972) and “Head of woman with hair in the wind”.

His talent is recognized in Italy and all over the world. In Venice, the Museum of the San Marco Basilica houses his “Deposition of Christ”, the Church of Santo Stefano retains a wonderful Nativity from 1983, and in 1991 his works are on display in the exhibition “The Glass of Archimede Seguso” organized by the Venice Municipality, the only case in which there are works on display at Palazzo Ducale. The Venice Biennale and the Milan Triennale house his collections. Solo exhibitions dedicated to Archimede Seguso were presented in New York in 1989 and in Japan in 1990.

In this glass workshop laboratory, even today the workmanship is the one used in the traditional furnace in Murano, manual and blow. All objects are blown, in rods of iron, to convey the color intensity and the gradient through the thickness of the glass. In other valuable workmanships, the glass object is suffused with specks of gold. The ultimate in refinement can be seen in the striking work with glass rods and with the murrina: Archimede Seguso has reinvented the eighteenth century watermark by manipulating glass rods to make inimitable tissues, with which he created vases and cups sought after by collectors and by the most prestigious museums.

A good idea for those who want to know the works of Archimede is a visit to the Museum of Murano Glass: museovetro.visitmuve.it

For more information: www.aseguso.com

Archimede Seguso - Scultura

Archimede Seguso - Lampadario fiori

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