NIU Professor of Art History and Director of the NIU Center for Burma Studies, Catherine Raymond has been awarded a Rakow Grant for Glass Research from the Corning Museum of Glass in Corning, NY. 

Raymond’s grant funding will be used to complete a manuscript on the reverse painting on glass tradition on the mainland of Southeast Asia.  This will present the first comprehensive account of an art form that has been known in the region since the 17th century.

The technique of reverse painting on glass traveled from Europe to China, and was then adopted across South and Southeast Asia, according to Raymond. In addition to the well-studied tradition of the Indonesian archipelago and the little-known tradition of mainland Southeast Asia, her research has uncovered a third tradition, which began with the gift of more than 100 reverse paintings on glass conveyed by the Dutch East India Company to the king of Thailand in 1686. By 1795, the king of Burma, who had invaded Thailand, was intrigued by reverse paintings on glass and wanted to investigate the technique by which they were made.

“As I was doing research in Burma, I discovered a 19th-century Buddhist temple, which possessed a unique installation of 200 reverse-painted glass panes, still in situ on the walls,” Raymond said. The temple, called Wat Chong Klang, is located in Thailand at the Burmese border. “In 2015, while researching collections in Burma, I documented the work of the last village dedicated to making reverse paintings on glass. With my students and colleagues we interviewed elderly artists on their techniques because there is an urgent need to preserve and create a record of this vanishing art form.”

Raymond, who received her doctorate in art, archaeology, and Burmese studies from the University of Paris III, Sorbonne Nouvelle, is curator of the Burma Art Collection at NIU which has a few dozen reverse paintings on glass. The university is planning an exhibition and symposium on reverse paintings on glass for November 2018.

The Rakow Grant is made possible through the generosity of the late Dr. and Mrs. Leonard S. Rakow, who were Fellows, friends, and benefactors of the Corning Museum of Glass. The purpose of this grant is to foster scholarly research in the history of glass and glassmaking from antiquity until the mid-20th century, from anywhere in the world. Disciplines intersecting with glass research may include (and are not limited to) archaeology and anthropology, art history, conservation, and the history of science and technology.