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Pilgrim Cameo Glass from the Touma Collection

January 19 - November 17, 2013

In 2011, Drs. Joseph B. and Omayma Touma donated 41 pieces of Pilgrim Cameo Glass to the Huntington Museum of Art. This gift came on the heels of another generous donation by the Toumas of 100 pieces of Pilgrim Cameo to Marshall University’s Drinko Library. That collection is currently on permanent view on the 2nd floor reading room. The Toumas began collecting Pilgrim Cameo glass in the 1990s not only for its beauty but for the purpose of preserving the legacy of cameo glass production in the Huntington region, which became their adopted home in 1971.

Pilgrim Glass Corporation was established in Ceredo, W.Va., in 1949 by Alfred Knobler, and it became known for its many rare colors of glass, especially cranberry. In 1987, Kelsey Murphy and Robert Bomkamp joined the company and soon began experimenting with the cameo glass technique. In the 14 remaining years of glass production at Pilgrim (the factory closed in 2001), Murphy and Bomkamp created hundreds of designs and pioneered a new tradition of “American Super Cameo.” Murphy and Bomkamp continue to design and produce cameo glass in their home studio.

Cameo glass was first created in ancient Rome in the 1st century AD. Only 15 complete pieces of this ancient glass have survived. The technique was used in Islamic art in the 9th and 10th centuries, but was then lost until the early 18th century when the Chinese began to make opaque glass with carved designs in relief, known as “Peking glass.” By the late 18th century glass manufacturers in Germany, England, and later in France began perfecting the art of cameo glass. The technique involves casing one color over another, then carving (using hand-cutting tools, engraving wheels, acid or sand-blasting), which exposes the various layers of color beneath. Murphy and Bomkamp have cased as many as 12 layers of color on one vessel.

The Toumas have been patrons of the Huntington Museum of Art for decades, best known for their donation of more than 400 works of Near Eastern Art to the Museum between the years 1991 and 2004. They also donated the funds to construct a gallery to display this collection and in 2010 financed a beautiful catalogue of the Touma Near Eastern Collection. After falling in love with Pilgrim cameo glass and amassing a collection, as before, they wished to share these beautiful objects with the public. A selection of the 41 Pilgrim Cameo glass pieces will be on view in the Museum’s Glass Gallery through November 17, 2013.

This exhibit is sponsored by the Isabelle Gwynn and Robert Daine Exhibition Endowment; the West Virginia Division of Culture and History; and the National Endowment for the Arts, with approval from the West Virginia Commission on the Arts.

Pilgrim Cameo Glass from the Touma Collection

Kelsey Murphy, Designer, 10th Street Viaduct: Huntington River and Rail Vase, 2000. Pilgrim Glass Corporation, Ceredo, W.Va. Cameo glass of seven layers, hunter green cover topaz, over white, over black, over hunter green, over crystal, over cobalt. Edition of Four. Gift of Drs. Joseph B. and Omayma Touma, 2011.9.29