Crystal Clarity  

In his famous 'Natural History', a major scientific treatise of the Roman era, Pliny the Elder (AD 23-79) described different types of glass and their methods of manufacture. He refered to coloured glass, milky-white glass and glass resembling semi-precious stones.

He reserved his highest praise, however, for transparent glass resembling rock crystal, a type of quartz, which had long been prized by gem-cutters for its watery clarity.

Clear, colourless glass is a commonplace material today. However, it was not always so. The perfectly clear and transparent glass we now take for granted was an expensive commodity until at least the eighteenth century. Window glass was used sparingly in all but the grandest of buildings.

While the exquisite cristallo made in Venice during the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries was never entirely free from impurities, a highly refractive and perfectly clear glass was made from the late seventeenth century in England (and elsewhere) by adding a measured quantity of lead oxide to the batch.

Such refinements were crucial to making skilfully cut and polished lenses for the early telescopes and microscopes that afforded glimpses into the nature of the cosmos, on the one hand, and the elementary structure of the natural world on the other.

Works in this display by Giselle Courtney (Neckpiece) and Yoshihiko Takahashi (holes) illustrate the artistic use of the optical properties of clear, transparent glass.






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Jar with bear couple lid,  BERNSTEIN, William; 1973, Crafts Board of the Australia Council Collection 1980
Neckpiece,  COURTNEY, Giselle; 1989
Decanter,  DRESSER, Christopher; HUKIN & HEATH, ; 1892
Fronding Vase,  HALL, Fiona; 1999
Untitled (knife 2),  ROBERTS, Neil; 1984, Funded by Crafts Board, Australia Council
Vase,  ROUSSEAU, François-Eugène; APPERT FRÈRES, ; 1878
holes,  TAKAHASHI, Yoshihiko; 1998, Purchased with the assistance of the Friends of the Gallery
Crystal Clarity | Coloured Clarity | Inner Worlds | Translucency | Opaque Counterpoint |
Decanter,  DRESSER, Christopher; HUKIN & HEATH, ; 1892