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Art Deco collection at the Museum of Glass

It's all about the vases

“Vase Nenuphar” (Water Lily Vase) from Le Verre Francais Line, collection of David Huchthausen. Photo credit: Lloyd Shugart

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Vases, vases and more vases crowd two large galleries in Tacoma's Museum of Glass - more than 100 Art Deco vases, statuettes, glass plates and wall hangings from the collection of David Huchthausen, famous as an artist and collector. Not coincidentally an exhibition of Huchthausen's own outstanding glass art closed on the last day of 2016 in another of MOG's galleries.

Art Deco was a craft movement that grew out of various other art movements such as Cubism, Bauhaus design, and Art Nouveau, which swept Europe and the United States in the 1920s and '30s. It was prominent in architecture, home décor, clothing, theatrical sets, jewelry, painting and sculpture. It is distinguished by simple, clean shapes, often with what at the time was considered a streamlined look with geometric or stylized figurative surface decoration - a style associated with elegance and wealth.

Many of the works in this show are by unknown artists identified only by the glass art studios that produced their works, such as Daum Frères, aka Daum Nancey, and Vetri d'Arte Muranese. There are many works by the same artists, most notably Charles Schneider. I counted 39 works by Schneider before giving up counting. There is a group of 37 Schneider vases in the first gallery. Taken as a group, there is an Egyptian look to these. They are mostly tall vases with geometric designs.

The inventiveness and originality of most works in this show can be seen in the surface decoration more so than in the form of the various vessels.

There are beautiful classical vases by René Lalique in clear glass or translucent white or off-white with bas relief sculptures of dancing nudes with interlocked arms. On the Lalique vase with a slight green tint called "Vase Bacchantes," the classical nudes are so close together as to look like they are growing out of each other, and the green tint gives it a ghostly appearance.

The stacked and repetitive geometric shapes on Schneider's "Water Lily Vase" looks to these eyes not so much like abstracted lilies but like a bird of prey, and its red color is fiery with an inner glow.

Among my favorites are four pieces attributed to Karel Palda with severe geometric patterns and strong color contrasts on cylindrical vases, decanters and other forms decorated with circular, zig-zag and stacked square-and-rectangular designs.

A small brandy snifter by an unidentified artist from Vetri d'Arte Muranese features an etched line drawing of figures and peacocks that are amazingly detailed and delicate.

A molded vase with deep-cut acid designs from Daum Nancey has the heavy and imposing look of ancient armor.

Wandering among the more than 100 works (a few on the walls but mostly in display cases) is like a scavenger hunt among artworks both antique and modern with an endless yet subtle variety of decorative elements.

"Art Deco from the Huchthausen Collection,"  10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Wednesday-Saturday; 10 a.m. to 8 p.m., Thursday; noon to 5 p.m., Sunday, through September 2017, $5-$15, free to members, free Third Thursday, Museum of Glass, 1801 Dock St., Tacoma, 866.468.7386, museumofglass.org

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