An Indispensible Name in French Pâte de Verre

Henri Cros (1840-1907)

Early 17th century French artists challenged themselves and each other to add movement and life to static material. The culmination of their efforts resulted in the heightened use of color in 18th century sculpture. In the mid-19th century, archaeological research revealed the expert application of color in ancient Greek sculpture. This discovery led to increased experimentation with color in sculpture and color as an aesthetic element.

In the beginning, many artists experimented with glazed clay. Henri Cros, a 19th century French sculptor, discovered an aesthetic breakthrough and inadvertently played a major role in the history of French pâte de verre.

Cros started off using wax because its color could be manipulated. But because wax molecules vaporize with heat, it was temporary at best. He later discovered that glass shared many properties with wax – except that it was permanent. Another fortuitous discovery was that glass could hold color. These findings solidified his place as an architect of French pâte de verre.

Why is the use of color in glass so important? Glass is a rare material that can harness light and color within its form, not only on its surface. Color within glass breathes new life into art, like what a moving picture is to a photograph. The discovery of this unique alliance between glass, light and color opened up a portal to artistic innovation and philosophical rumination.