The Alonso International Glass Collection
Relishes a Century of Glass Art
by Bernadette De Loose and María Alonso
During his stay in Brussels, first as a Spanish diplomat and later as a senior official of the European Union, Antonio Alonso (1936-2011) took an interest in the quality and the possibilities of glass. Collecting crystal and glassware became his passion. For decades he visited auction houses, antique shops and flea markets.
The collection comprises very diverse shapes and techniques and covers the period from the end of the 19th century to around 1990.
The focus is on glassware from the studios of Val Saint-Lambert, which at the end of the 19th century was a thriving company led by artistic director Léon Ledru. During the interwar period the company won a few awards with entries for L’Exposition des Arts Décoratifs et Industriels Modernes as well as at the world exhibitions of 1930 and 1935. Some models are included in the Alonso collection.
The collection further includes gems from the French Art Nouveau. The glass artist Emile Gallé is represented with several objects.
German, Bohemian, Italian and Finnish glassware was added by Antonio Alonso as well. Post-war designs are mainly represented by Studio Glass, glassware mostly produced in a small oven in the artist’s studio.
Admittedly, crystal glass artwork has not always received the attention it deserves in Spain, the collector’s homeland. In 2005 a large part of the collection was transferred from Segovia to Ghent and exhibited there. Five years later, another twenty works were added. Since then, no less than a hundred and twenty objects have been on long-term loan.
Masterpieces from the collection were included in the major exhibition Design Derby 1815-2015, BE-NL, a co-production between the Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen and Design Museum Gent. In the spring of 2016, the Japanese embassy in Brussels was the venue for a small exhibition on the subject of Japonism in Art Nouveau glass with a lecture provided by Prof. Dr. Werner Adriaenssens. During Heritage Day 2016, Astrid Maton, master of Japanese flower arranging, was allowed the use of a selection of the vases to showcase her Ikebana expertise.
In the spring of 2018, the curators selected a few masterpieces from the glass collection for the new collection presentation Object Stories. A look at the collection. Some 15 other objects are on display in the 18th century Hotel de Coninck.