Loetz Art Glass

From the Collection of Dr. James Jory of Colorado

Beginning in the late 1970s, Dr. Jory developed an interest in turn of the century art glass and was touched by the beauty and uniqueness of their forms. He became an avid collector, patiently assembling and curating his collection over the next 30+ years, later becoming an accomplished glass artist himself. His appreciation of Loetz glass is evident in the quality of his collection and we are honored to bring the present group to market for the Jory family. 

The Glory Years of Loetz

Phenomenon, noun: a remarkable person, thing, or event.

Phänomen–phenomenon, in English–was a remarkable type of Loetz glass that was equal parts visually impressive, economically successful, yet short-lived. It was born, as so many great creations are, out of a quest for originality. In 1897, owner of Loetz glassworks Max von Spaun visited an exhibition of Tiffany Studios glass organized by Siegfried Bing at the North Bohemian Industrial Arts Museum. Struck by the popularity and marketability of Tiffany’s lustrous wares, von Spaun desired to create more affordable yet equally beautiful alternatives. Loetz had patented an iridescent glass with “metallic shimmer” around 1895-96 (just a year or two after Tiffany) but von Spaun, in response to allegations of plagiarism from critics and with the help of his director of operations, Eduard Prochaska, embarked on a process of experimentation with iridescent glass and trailing threads that led to the Phänomen series of décors.

Phänomen décors were characterized by variations of trailing and combed threads with colored glass and bands of metallic iridescence. The development of the series led to the company’s collaborations with some of the most renowned designers and artists of the time, including Josef Hoffmann, Koloman Moser, and Franz Hofstötter. The latter’s designs were instrumental in Loetz’s success at the Paris Exposition Universelle in 1900, where they won a coveted Grand Prix award. Phänomen’s popularity lasted until 1903 at which point it experienced a sharp decline, and by 1905 the company had moved on to other styles. Loetz would operate for another forty years but, like lightning in a bottle, would never again capture the success they experienced between 1898-1905.

Loetz

Loetz’s roots reach back to 1836 when Johann Eisner founded a glassworks in Klostermühle, now part of the Czech Republic. After his death, the company was eventually acquired in 1851 by Frank Gerstner and his wife, Susanne. Susanne was the widow (“Witwe” in German) of Johann Loetz, a glassmaker about whom precious little is known. Gerstner transferred ownership of the company to Susanne in 1855 prior to his death, and she spent the next 20 years expanding the company, which she renamed Johann Loetz Witwe (Johann Loetz’s Widow).

In 1879, Susanne turned the company over to her grandson, Maximilian von Spaun. He soon hired Eduard Prochaska as director and they embarked on modernizing the factory and introducing new techniques and processes. Their collaboration began with innovations in Historicism glass (such as marmorisierte, which imitated semi-precious stones) and were met with success at exhibitions in Brussels, Munich and Vienna and awards at the Paris Exposition Universelle in 1889. In 1897, however, von Spaun saw Tiffany glass in Bohemia and Vienna, setting the company on a new path toward the prevailing Art Nouveau style. Between 1898 and 1905, Prochaska’s technical expertise and von Spaun’s business acumen led them to enormous success, crowned by the Phänomen series of designs.

Loetz went on to operate for several more decades, consistently producing high-quality glass but never at the level of success seen around the turn of the 19th century. The remaining decades were punctuated by a series of financial issues, ownership changes, production setbacks, the Great Depression, and WWII, before they ultimately closed their doors in 1947. Their impressive legacy lives on in many private and public collections, including the PASK Museum, Klatovy which is entirely dedicated to Loetz.

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