Karl Köpping’s Flower Form Glasses

Art Nouveau (New Art) was an international decorative style of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Characterized by its focus on nature, organic forms, sinuous lines, and non-geometric “whiplash” curves, the style originated in Europe during the 1880s and reached its peak around 1900. In Germany, traces of the style are found as early as 1885.

It was not until 1886, however, that the first true examples of Art Nouveau emerged in Germany. Jugend, an avant-garde art and literature periodical produced in Munich during this year, gave the new style its German name of “Jugendstil,” or “Youth Style.” The pages of Jugend were filled with innovative typography and illustrations and the style soon spread throughout Germany’s decorative and applied arts. Glass was no exception: designers employed the material as another vehicle to reflect the aesthetics and decorative motifs of the Jugendstil.

Köpping’sche ziergläser (Köpping’s flowering glasses), Karl Köpping (1848-1914), Berlin, Germany, published in Pan, 1896. CMGL 122932.

Köpping’sche ziergläser (Köpping’s flowering glasses), Karl Köpping (1848-1914), Berlin, Germany, published in Pan, 1896. CMGL 122932.

Berlin was and still is a city central to the arts in Germany, and so it’s no surprise that Berlin artist and designers were involved in the Jugendstil movement. In 1895, Pan, another significant Jugendstil periodical, was published in Berlin by Julius Meier-Graefe. Its logo—a goat-like head with horn and beard—represented the publication’s namesake, Pan, the ancient Greek god of the wilds who symbolized fertility and spring. Additionally, the Greek word “pan” meant “all or everything,” which appealed to the Jugendstil designers who sought to create unity within German design. Pan was published for five years and, like Jugend, demonstrated innovative design and typography through the use of black and white and colored plates, illustrations, lithographs, etchings, woodcuts and other modern printing processes.

An etching by the German designer Karl Köpping (1848-1914) was published in Pan in 1896, a print of which is held in the Corning Museum’s Rakow Library collection [122932] and illustrated here.

Born in Dresden, Köpping was an artist and graphic designer who spent most of his working life in Berlin. In 1869, he studied art and etching at the Munich Academy of Art before traveling to Paris in 1876 to continue his studies in etching. Later, Köpping would become a professor at the Berlin Academy of Art where he taught design, copperplate engraving, and etching. His work appeared often in Pan, and by 1896, Köpping was an associate editor for the periodical.

Although Köpping was celebrated for his etchings, he also made designs for the applied arts—of which his most well-known are glass lampworked drinking vessels.

Goblet in Form of Flower, Possibly Karl Köpping (designer, German 1848-1914); probably Friedrich Zitzmann (maker, German, 1840-1906). Berlin, Germany, About 1900-1910. (61.3.123)

Goblet in Form of Flower, Possibly Karl Köpping (designer, German 1848-1914); probably Friedrich Zitzmann (maker, German, 1840-1906). Berlin, Germany, About 1900-1910. (61.3.123)

While Köpping designed quite a number of glasses, including four cordials in the Museum’s collection [65.3.53, 68.3.10, 79.3.500, 79.3.1225], his delicate glasses in flower forms epitomize the Jugendstil’s focus on nature and the curvilinear form.

The foot and bowl of this goblet are connected by an elegantly twisting stem, which gives the impression that the colorful bowl is like a blooming flower. A leaf radiates from the stem, curving as it reaches upwards. The graceful and delicate nature of these glasses provoked one contemporary observer to comment that the glass looked as if it would “collapse with mere inspection.” It is assumed that these glasses were not meant for everyday use but would have been used occasionally or displayed as decorative objects.

Although many critics dismissed Köpping’s glass designs as novelties, they maintained their popularity.  In 1900, the jurors of the Exposition Universelle in Paris awarded a Gold Medal to the glasses designed by Köpping, along with a Grand Prize for the original etching of the two glasses illustrated here.

You can view more glass in flower form via our Collection Set.