Kralik art glass
Kralik art glass is a type of Bohemian art glass made my the Kralik glass company, which rose to prominence during the Art Deco period.
Bohemian art glass was made in and around what is now considered the Czech Republic during the Art Nouveau/Jugendstil era. Pieces belonging to the genre usually consist of a classic vase form that has been hand-worked and sometimes sculpted into swirling, organic-looking shapes such as seashells, flowers, and tree trunks. Decorative vases, cups, and pitchers were popular forms, and many of the pieces have an iridescent sheen from the firing and reduction techniques used during the period.
The movement was borne out of a rich tradition of Bohemian glass making, which dates back to the 16th and 17th centuries. But it was the Marmoriertes and Lithyalin glass of the mid-19th century that really paved the way for the iridescent Art Nouveau art glass - the kind of art glass that contemporary collectors are the most familiar with. These types of "marbled" glass varieties signalled a movement away from a study of form to an infatuation with surface treatments and techniques. While art glass is values for both form and finish, finish remains the key consideration among collectors and dealers alike.
One of the region’s leaders in this field was Loetz, which took first prize for its 1889 Paris Exhibition display. Loetz pieces from this period include the vases, pitchers, and bowls in the Phänomen series.
The Kralik glassworks was another well-known maker of antique Bohemian art glass, although it would not rise to prominence until the Art Deco period. During the Art Nouveau, it was largely producing vases, jars, and shells in the style of Loetz and others. Today, collectors of antique Bohemian art glass are often buying a Kralik when they are being sold a Loetz.
The Czech glass industry poses a number of challenges for collectors, particularly given the lack of records, as a result of political turmoil and wars in the region, for the major manufacturers. One notable exception to this informational black hole is the recently discovered the Loetz archive, which were found at a regional museum in 1989. Aside from this archive, there is very little contemporary, concrete evidence as to the production of Bohemian art glass still remaining.
- Major Czech manufacturers of the Art Nouveau period held up Loetz as the model to be followed - not copied but imitated. Therefore, you can find the same shape in many décors, the same décor in several shapes; and the same shape and décor in several sizes. Some surface treatments and décors, such as threading, the use of rigaree, the hammered effect (martelé) or spots (papillon, ciselé, oil glaze) were shared by several companies.
- Each company had a stock of shapes which appeared in a number of different décors, and sizes. Shape then, can become a decisive factor in determining possible provenance.
- Unfortunately, it is the tendency of the market nowadays (dealers, auction houses and eBay) to label everything as "Loetz".
The names of many décors by Loetz can be found in the company's archive. Occasionally, however, a décor is found which is believed to be Loetz, but is not readily identifiable. In most cases these will simply be known as "Unknown Loetz décors". There is a good chance, however, that these "Unknown Loetz décors" are in fact examples of Kralik art glass.
- Decor Shift - The development of a décor by one manufacturer with the intention of having it resemble a décor by a competitor.
- Design Shift - The intentional manufacture of a vessel using a shape or shaping technique which mimics a competitor.
- Threaded - The application of glass threading, or fine strands to the surface of a vessel. Threading can be found in a random pattern, as in Loetz Chine, and also in a geometric pattern, such as in the Kralik Spiral décor. Threading is found in colours both similar and different from the ground colour of the vessel it is applied to.
- Veined - The application of glass threading, generally quite varied in width, and in a random pattern on the surface of a vessel. Veining is generally found in a colour that differs from the ground colour of the vessel.
- Corded - The application of a thick cord of glass, commonly refered to as a coil or a snake. Found as overlapping cords on some pieces. Veining is generally found in a color that differs from the ground colour of the vessel.
- Dual Attribution – An example showing distinct characteristics of two recognized glass houses. Most commonly seen as a "blank" being decorated by another house. Examples would be a Loetz blank decorated by Karl Goldberg (see Loetz Orphir), or a Kralik blank decorated by Hosch (see Kralik Opalescent).
Fine and rare examples of Kralik art glass can be worth as much as $2,000, however, more common items rarely achieve more than $400 at auction, with the vast majority of pieces worth between $50 and $300.