Fifteen Fabulous Glass Artists and Their Works

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Glass art’s ethereal forms to lustrous surfaces can dazzle and beguile even the most discerning collector. Among traditions that span centuries, glass art races towards the head of the pack in terms of popular collecting categories. Those new to this field will enjoy this brief history of blown glass art and our spotlight of 15 fantastic glass artists along with some of their most iconic creations.

Into the Hot Shop: The Art of Glassblowing

While one of the world’s oldest glass pieces dates to the reign of Egyptian pharaoh Tuthmose III, the technique of glassblowing only emerged in the Middle East in the first century CE. This novel technique presented makers with two major advantages. The first was the ability to make new shapes thanks to the control that the maker now had over the molten glass applied to the end of a hollow rod into which the glassmaker would blow. The second was that glassblowing was more economical: rather than mold-formed pieces that could be thick and weighty, blown glass pieces did more with less glass (while also contributing to lighter, airer forms). 

Initially, these blown glass vessels were fundamentally utilitarian: artisans would not apply pattern or texture finishes, instead often creating very uniform surfaces to echo the quotidian function of many of these vessels. As the tradition spread – specifically into European centers like Venice – glassblowing began to increasingly emphasize aesthetics by the 13th century. This emphasis exploded in the 18th and 19th centuries, artists increasingly turned to glass as an art form. Masters like Louis Comfort Tiffany and Emile Gallé contributed to a new international appreciation for fine art glass with luxurious forms and indulgent finishes that enlivened their glass works. 

Famous Glass Artists

Beyond icons like Tiffany and Gallé, many others have contributed to the growth of glass art. Here we note some of the most significant in this crowded field.  Some of these talents introduced the world to the incredible creative potential of glass; others encouraged the spread of glassblowing training and tutelage to ensure the traditions would endure.

Rene Lalique (1860-1945)

René Lalique - Vase "Ormeaux" 5 Pieces.

René Lalique – Vase “Ormeaux” 5 Pieces. Sold for ¥650,000 via New Art Est-Ouest Auctions (March 2023).

Of the same generation of Gallé, René Lalique was equal parts master jeweler and glassmaking maven. Lalique devoted much of his early career to jewelry designs but turned his focus to glassmaking in the early 20th century. By the mid-1910s he had established his own glassworks, meaning he could make larger volumes of glass art at more affordable prices. Nevertheless, the quality of Lalique’s designs remained incredibly high. The delicacy of his glass art – its forms now synonymous with Art Deco design – recalled his time as a jewelry designer such that each glass vase or figurine was to be treasured as a gem.

Browse René Lalique at Auction

Harvey Littleton (1922-2013)

Harvey Littleton -Rocker #7.

Harvey Littleton -Rocker #7. Sold for $26,500 via Habatat Galleries (April 2014).

Harvey Littleton is considered a “father of the studio glass movement” thanks to his pioneering studio glassmaking techniques. While a professor at the University of Wisconsin, Littleton launched workshops at the Toledo Museum of Art in the 1960s to troubleshoot a glass formula that could be melted at lower temperatures (thus making it workable within the studio rather than in an industrial workshop). These revolutionary techniques became the foundations of his university studio, which became the hub for rising glass artists – like Dale Chihuly –  into the late 1970s. His glass forms, which range from the highly geometric to the scintillatingly organic, garnered major awards including the Gold Medal of the American Craft Council in 1983, and his works, like Four Seasons, have made it into major museum collections. 

Browse Harvey Littleton at Auction

Dominick Labino (1910-1987)

Dominick Labino Emergence Series Sculptures

Dominick Labino – L-R: Left: Emergence Sculpture, 1983. Sold for $6,875 via Christie’s (March 2014). Middle: Emergence Series, signed “Labino 4-1970”. Sold for $3,500 via Brunk Auctions (April 2022). Right: Emergence Sculpture, etched “Labino 10-1982”. Sold for $4,500 via Hindman (May 2019).

Equal parts scientist and artist, Dominick Labino explored glassmaking after taking a job at the Owens-Illinois Glass Company. From there Labino would move to Toledo, where he collaborated with Littleton in the 1960s on his studio glass studies. Labino never abandoned his passions for scientific invention – he even developed specialized glass fibers for NASA’s Apollo spacecraft –  but his colorful and strikingly luminescent glass art, characterized in works like those in his “Emergence” Series, reveals his true mastery of the creative medium. 

Browse Dominick Labino at Auction

Marvin Lipofsky (1938-2016)

Martin Lipofsky - L-R: Left: Frauenau Group #8, 2000. Sold for $18,750 via Hindman (May 2019). Right: Stockholm Series #6, 1989-1990. Sold for $2,200 via Heritage Auctions (April 2021).

Martin Lipofsky – L-R: Left: Frauenau Group #8, 2000. Sold for $18,750 via Hindman (May 2019). Right: Stockholm Series #6, 1989-1990. Sold for $2,200 via Heritage Auctions (April 2021).

Another protegé from Littleton’s studio, Marvin Lipofsky was so inspired from his study that he is credited with disseminating the Studio Glass Movement to the West Coast via his studio at the University of California-Berkeley. Much of Liposfky’s glass art alludes to organic or anatomical shapes but is tempered with eclectic colors and patterns to carry them into the realm of imagination.

Browse Marvin Lipofsky at Auction

Howard Ben Tré (1949-2020)

Howard Ben Tré got his start in glass blowing but transitioned to poured pieces while still a student. He held a profound appreciation for traditional glassmaking, and this depth, combined with an equally passionate fascination with spiritual forms from Asian and African cultures, resulted in a process-oriented approach that often incorporated the use of sand molds in which molten glass would be left to cool and cure for months at a time. The emerging forms, like those from his “Columns” series, recall ancient totems with their flecked gold leaf and balanced symmetry that seemingly speaks from the past while also envisioning a future for glass art. 

Browse Howard Ben Tré at Auction

Lino Tagliapietra (1934 – )

Lino Tagliapietra - L-R: Left: Fenice. Sold for $20,000 via Rago Arts and Auction Center(Jan 2023). Right: Dinosaur. Sold for $35,000 via Rago Arts and Auction Center (Jan 2023).

Lino Tagliapietra – L-R: Left: Fenice. Sold for $20,000 via Rago Arts and Auction Center (Jan 2023). Right: Dinosaur. Sold for $35,000 via Rago Arts and Auction Center (Jan 2023).

Hailing from the Venetian glassmaking epicenter of Murano, Lino Tagliapietra fostered skills that combined the brilliant colors characteristic of Venetian glass with the clean lines of modernist design. He amplified this style during his extended collaborations with artists like Chihuly at his Pilchuck Glass School in Seattle, Washington. These exchanges allowed Tagliapietra to export his Venetian traditions to America,  not only through his conversations with Chihuly, as captured in the latter’s “Venetian” series, but also in works like Tagliapietra’s Endeavor installation at the Corning Museum of Glass. 

Browse Lino Tagliapietra at Auction

Dale Chihuly (1941 – )

A magician of glassmaking, Dale Chihuly’s early training in Harvey Littleton’s studio combined with a Fulbright Fellowship in Venice set the artist on course for glass art greatness. Core to much of Chihuly’s practice was ensuring that the tradition of studio glass endured, hence the creation of a glassmaking program at the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) as well as the Pilchuck Glass School. 

Throughout Chihuly continued to play with form and color in his work while also defying the conventional bounds or spaces for glass installations. This resulted in increasingly large blown glass installations, ranging from “Seaforms” series, reminiscent of sea life, to full suites of glass-based landscapes, like that seen in Chihuly Garden and Glass in Seattle. 

Browse Dale Chihuly at Auction

Ginny Ruffner (1952 – ) 

After viewing Marcel Duchamp’s famous work, The Bride Stripped Bare by her Bachelors Even (The Large Glass), Ginny Ruffner gained a new perspective on glass art. This led to her development of painted glass sculptures in which she paired her lampworking techniques, in which a torch or lamp is used to heat glass so that the artist can then mold it into myriad shapes. She taught some of these lampworking techniques while teaching at Pilchuck Glass School in the 1980s. While there she also pioneered the use of borosilicate glass, a form of the material that is strikingly resistant to sudden intense heat, during this tenure. Ruffner is recognized as one of the first to use this glass in art, borosilicate glass is more commonly used for scientific tools like flasks or beakers.

Browse Ginny Ruffner at Auction

Sidney Hutter (1954 – ) 

Sidney Hutter - L-R: Left: Quasi Modern # 100, 2001. Sold for $3,125 via Bonhams 2 (June 2014). Middle: Twisted Abstract Strip Vase #7. Sold for $1,250 via Christie's (June 2009). Right: Solid Vase Form #66. Sold for $2,625 via Rago Arts and Auction Center (Oct 2012).

Sidney Hutter – L-R: Left: Quasi Modern # 100, 2001. Sold for $3,125 via Bonhams 2 (June 2014). Middle: Twisted Abstract Strip Vase #7. Sold for $1,250 via Christie’s (June 2009). Right: Solid Vase Form #66. Sold for $2,625 via Rago Arts and Auction Center (Oct 2012).

A self-described industrialist who found his greatest artistic inspiration in the modernist trends of the early 20th century, from Bauhaus to Cubism, Sidney Hutter has worked in both hot-glass and cold-glass techniques throughout his career. He developed a style that channeled both movements’ geometric sensibilities by incorporating techniques of cutting, polishing, and laminating glass most often used in factory settings. 

Browse Sidney Hutter at Auction

Robert Mickelsen (1951 – )

Robert Mickelsen - L-R: Left: Sea Anemone Sculpture. Sold for $2,750 via DuMouchelles (July 2019). Right: Graal Sea Anemone Sculpture. Sold for $409.50 via Jeffrey S. Evans & Associates (April 2020).

Robert Mickelsen – L-R: Left: Sea Anemone Sculpture. Sold for $2,750 via DuMouchelles (July 2019). Right: Graal Sea Anemone Sculpture. Sold for $409.50 via Jeffrey S. Evans & Associates (April 2020).

Getting his start selling his glass lamps at local craft fairs, Robert Mickelson experienced a transformation of his practice in the late 1980s. He took a class with famed glass artist and flameworker Paul Stankard and emerged with a renewed passion for the potential that glassmaking held. With this new inspiration, Mickelson began to show his lampworked glass art in galleries instead of craft fairs, and since that point his career has only accelerated. His works are included in important collections including the Carnegie Museum of Art and the Corning Museum of Glass.

Browse Robert Mikelson at Auction

William Morris (1957 –  )

William Morris - Pipe, 2003.

William Morris – Pipe, 2003. Sold for $37,500 via Christie’s (March 2014).

Not to be confused with the original Arts & Crafts icon, contemporary glass artist William Morris’ early job at the Pilchuck Glass School led him to befriend Dale Chihuly, and the two teamed up for over a decade of work together. From that point, Morris branched out into his own studio and devoted his time to fully developing his artful form of glassmaking. Taking inspiration from both nature and antiquity, Morris cultivated a dynamic style that often challenged the notions of the artifact as an art object. He continued to produce until his retirement in 2007, and today his pieces are on display in world-renowned museums, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Hokkaido Museum of Modern Art, and the Victoria and Albert Museum. 

Browse William Morris at Auction

Martin Blank (1962 –  )

Celebrated for his figurative glass art, Martin Blank studied at the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) and then landed at Dale Chihuly’s studio. During this period he collaborated with Chihuly to further hone his abilities while also contemplating the concept of the architectural and abstract qualities glass can achieve. This conversation between the abstract and the natural was showcased in his expansive installation, Fluent Steps, created during his residency at Tacoma’s Museum of Glass in 2008, but it can also be seen in some of his smaller groupings such as his “Drinking Cup” series

Browse Martin Blank at Auction

Glass Artists to Keep Following 

No list of famous glass artists would be complete without a nod to the rising stars of the field whose works are increasingly innovative yet have yet to ascend to the same level of celebrity as artists like Chihuly or Tagliapietra. These artists include:

  • Carol Milne (1962 – ), whose revolutionary knitted glass conjured through lost wax casting has already won major awards, including the Silver Medal at the 2010 International Exhibition of Glass in Japan;
  • Jack Storms (1970 – ), whose cold-glass process for producing incredible glass sculptures that defy the eye with their kaleidoscopic play of light that were featured in the “Guardians of the Galaxy” film franchise; and 
  • Jean-Pierre Canlis (1973 –   ), another product of the Pilchuck Glass School who now runs his own outpost, the Canlis Glass Studio, in Seattle, Washington such that he can work closely with clients and collectors to conjure an incredible variety of forms drawn from nature.

Glass can be a remarkably difficult medium to master. Regardless, as these fifteen glass artists demonstrate, the result of that mastery is the ability to transform glass in a myriad of ways, from streamlined forms to scrolling organic elements, and from mixed media applications to knitted threads of molten glass. In sum, these glass artists exemplify the awe-inspiring aspects of glass art that consistently compel collectors to the auction market.