- Place of origin:
Eisch, Erwin, born 1927 (made)
- Materials and Techniques:
- Credit Line:
Given by Erwin and Gretel Eisch
- Museum number:
C.223:1 to 8-2014
- Gallery location:
Contemporary Glass, Room 129, The Märit Rausing Gallery, case 3 
Erwin Eisch (German, b. 1927) is one of the founders of studio glass in Europe. More than anyone, Eisch is responsible for developing glass as a material for artistic expression, liberating the material from its previous, almost exclusive, use for vases and decorative objects.
Born in Frauenau, a small town in South-East Germany, Eisch became familiar with glass making and engraving in his father’s glass factory. He went on to study Interior Architecture, Glass Design and Sculpture at the Academy of Fine Arts in Munich.
In 1962 Eisch met Harvey K. Littleton, who is now widely recognised as the founder of the American Studio glass movement. Their shared passion for the use of hot glass in contemporary practice initiated an exciting artistic exchange between Europe and the United States, and attracted growing attention for the studio glass movement.
Like the American Studio glass artists, Eisch was against the smooth ‘easy’ beauty of glass achieved through technical fluency. Instead, he was interested in providing an antidote to an increasingly organised and technologically driven society. He wanted to ‘take the straight and bend it’. For him, art was the pure expression of the artistic intuition and perceptive mind of its maker.
From 1971 Eisch made three installations themed around Narcissus, which he regards as crucial to the understanding of his work. In ancient mythology, Narcissus fell in love with his own reflection in a pond and subsequently drowned. In Eisch’s interpretation, the figure of Narcissus is both man and mirror, and sees himself reflected in his own swollen belly, as if giving birth to himself. This can be seen as a metaphor for the artistic, creative moment, when all learned techniques and past influences are abandoned, and pure artistic expression is born out of a painful emergency moment.
In the first version of 1971, now in the Frauenau glass museum, Narcissus was part of a complex installation, featuring a multi-part, larger than life-size glass figure being carried away on a stretcher in an elaborate mixed-media, bourgeois interior. The second version has been (partly) lost. The V&A Narcissus is the third and final version. According to the artist is was created for the opening of the new glass museum in Frauenau in 1975, where it was shown in a mirrored glass box.
A larger than life-size male figure of Narcissus made up of 8 hand-blown and mirrored body parts.
Head of 'Narcissus' (C.223:1-2014)
Glass form with a crack on the back at eye level. Sealed bottom with aluminium foil.
Chest of 'Narcissus' (C.223:2-2014)
Glass form with bottom sealed and covered with aluminium foil.
Left arm of 'Narcissus' (C.223:3-2014)
Glass form in two parts glued together at the elbow, to make a full arm shape.
Right arm of 'Narcissus' (C.223:4-2014)
Glass form in two parts glued together at the elbow, to make a full arm shape, with fingers cut away from the bottom.
Belly of 'Narcissus' (C.223:5-2014)
Glass form, unsealed. The interior silver layer is painted red.
Hips of 'Narcissus' (C.223:6-2014)
Glass form in the shape of a human hips, with a sealed hole to the top covered with aluminium foil.
Left leg of 'Narcissus' (C.223:7-2014)
Glass form in the shape of a straight left leg, amde of three parts bonded together. The back of the heel is open.
Right leg pf 'Narcissus' (C.223:8-2014)
Glass form in the shape of a bent right leg, made of three parts, joints below the knee and ankle. The joint below the knee is sealed with aluminium foil. The back of the heel is open.
Place of Origin
Eisch, Erwin, born 1927 (made)
Materials and Techniques
Marks and inscriptions
Erwin Eisch/ 72A
C.233:1-2014, incised with diamond point to the neck
Erwin Eish/ 72C
C.223:2-2014, incised with diamond point at right collarbone
Erwin Eisch/ 72E
C.223:3-2014, incised with diamond point underneath at the top of upper arm
Erwin Eisch/ 72D
C.223:4-2014, incised with diamond point on the underarm underneath the elbow
Erwin Eisch/ 72E
C.223:5-2014, incised with diamond point ca. 10cm from the bottom on the side
Erwin Eisch/ 72E
C.223:6-2014, incised with diamond point at upper right of the hip
Erwin Eisch/ 72F
C.223:7-2014, incised with diamond point at the top hip joint level
Erwin Eisch/ 72G
C.223:8-2014, incised with diamond point at the upper thigh
Length: 250 cm Whole, Width: 100 cm Whole, Length: 40.5 cm C.223:1-2014 (Head), Width: 19.5 cm C.223:1-2014 (Head), Depth: 12.5 cm C.223:1-2014 (Head), Length: 54 cm C.223:2-2014 (Chest), Width: 31 cm C.223:2-2014 (Chest), Length: 101 cm C.223:3-2014 (Left arm), Width: 14.5 cm C.223:3-2014 (Left arm, hand), Length: 95 cm C.223:4-2014 (Right arm), Width: 14.5 cm C.223:4-2014 (Right arm, hand), Length: 46 cm C.223:6-2014 (Hips), Width: 46 cm C.223:6-2014 (Hips), Length: 95 cm C.223:7-2014 (Left leg), Width: 28 cm C.223:7-2014 (Left leg, foot), Length: 80.5 cm C.223:8-2014 (Right leg), Width: 11 cm C.223:8-2014 (Right leg, foot)
Object history note
From 1971 Erwin Eisch made three installations themed around Narcissus. In the first version of 1971, now in the Frauenau glass museum, Narcissus was part of a complex installation, featuring a multi-part, larger than life-size glass figure being carried away on a stretcher in an elaborate mixed-media, bourgeois interior. According to the artist, a second version has been (partly) lost. The V&A Narcissus us the third and final version was created for the opening of the new glass museum in Frauenau in 1975, where it was shown in a mirrored glass box. It remained in the artist's posession until it was donated to the V&A in 2014. Prior to this it was shown at the National Glass Centre in Sunderland, in the exhibition: Erwin Eisch - Clouds Have Been My Foothold All Along: A retrospective of the work of Erwin Eisch (29 June until 22 September 2013).
Glass Sculpture, 'Narcissus', Erwin Eisch, Frauenau, Germany, 1972-75.
Bibliographic References (Citation, Note/Abstract, NAL no)
New Glass Review Corning Museum of Glass, 2015, p.111.
Reino Liefkes and Kate Quinlan, 'Bend it like Eisch', in: V&A Magazine, No 39, Spring 2016, p. 100
Labels and date
Erwin Eisch (born 1927)
Erwin Eisch was one of the first artists in Europe to use glass as a material purely for artistic expression. From 1971 he made three installations themed around Narcissus, a mythological figure who drowned in a pond after falling in love with his own reflection. This third version was made for the opening of the new glass museum in Frauenau, in 1975, where it was shown in a mirrored glass box, representing the pond.
Mould-blown, silvered and glued
Gift of the artist
Museum no. C.223-2014