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Glass & TMA

John Rufus Denman and Patrick H. Walker

Punch Bowl and Stand

Libbey Glass Company. 1903-1904. Thick colorless glass. Blank blown, probably in a mold, and finished by tooling. Cut with a variant of the Grand Prize pattern. Gift of Libbey Glass Company, division of Owens-Illinois Glass Company. 1946.27A-Y

The glass objects at the Toledo Museum of Art comprise one of the most comprehensive and historically significant collections dedicated to the medium in the world. Works have been continuously acquired, studied, conserved, published, and exhibited, and our collection’s creation and growth are as unique as the Museum itself.

TMA’s art collection was formed first and foremost to provide aesthetic education for the people of the city and northwest Ohio. The historic glass objects, more specifically, were also to serve as models and inspiration for the designers and craftsmen employed in the flourishing local glass industry.

A Rich History of Glass

Toledo’s image as the Glass City of the United States was firmly established by the time of TMA’s founding in 1901, based on a spate of inventions across the glass industry—bottles, window glass, tableware, windshields, and construction materials. Glass industrialist Edward Drummond Libbey spearheaded the initiative to improve the education of local craftsmen and designers by assembling a model glass collection, as well as promoting training, competitions, and exhibitions of new work. In 1913 Libbey purchased the first of several significant glass collections. The group of 53 European Renaissance and Baroque glasses came from the estate of German publisher Julius Heinrich Wilhelm Campe. With this purchase, the Museum acquired the most important historic European glass collection in the United States at the time, and many of the rare objects remain the only examples of their kind in the country.

By the early 1920s, Toledo’s glass collection ranked with the most important repository of the material in the United States at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Libbey continued to acquire systematically formed collections of high repute from both abroad and from the U.S. His desire to document the history of American glass from the 17th century onward was at the time remarkably forward-looking. Until the beginning of the 20th century, American-made glass was generally viewed as inferior to its European counterparts in both design and execution and only recently deemed worthy of serious study and collecting.

Glass at TMA Today

Today, TMA’s American glass holdings rank among the principal collections in the field, with objects of exceptional quality and historical importance.

Since the 1970s, works of art in glass continue to be added judiciously to the collection by purchase and through the generosity of donors. In recognition of the Toledo Museum of Art’s role as the cradle of the Studio Glass Movement, many artists and collectors have donated works of art.

With the opening of the TMA Glass Pavilion in 2006, Toledo acquired a state-of-the-art facility to house, care for, study, and display its renowned glass collection.

Glassblowing Demonstrations

Visit the Toledo Museum of Art's Glass Pavilion hot shop to watch a piece of art in glass take shape before your eyes. Each demo is approximately 45 minutes. Objects are available for purchase after the experience!

Studio Glass Movement

In 1962, the Studio Glass Movement was born in a garage on the Museum grounds. Harvey Littleton, a pottery instructor, received the support of then-director Otto Wittmann to conduct a workshop to explore ways artists might create works from molten glass in their own studios, rather than in factories. A prototype “studio” furnace was built in the TMA garage, but for the first three days of the workshop all attempts to fuse molten glass failed. Finally, Dominick Labino, then vice president and director of research at Johns Manville Fiber Glass, showed up with advice on furnace construction, and with glass marbles that melted. Harvey Leafgreen, a retired glassblower from Libbey Glass, was then able to demonstrate his craft. Later that summer, many participants returned for a second workshop.

In 1969, the Toledo Museum of Art constructed the Glass-Crafts Building, becoming the first museum to build a facility and studio specifically designed for teaching glass working techniques.

Today, the TMA Glass Pavilion is home to both one of the most important glass collections in the world, and to a variety of spaces and techniques for making glass in the studio.


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