Harvey K. Littleton

In Memoriam . . . Harvey K. Littleton

By Beverly M. Copeland, Editor and Publisher, Glass Focus

Harvey K. LittletonHarvey K. Littleton
Harvey K. Littleton (1922-2013), died on December 13, 2013, at his home in Spruce Pine, North Carolina, at the age of 91. Littleton was the seminal glass artist whose work ranged from functional vessels to sculptural forms. His father was a physicist at Corning Glass Works providing him early exposure to glass in the factories. Trained as a ceramicist, he began experimenting with hot glass in his studio in the 1950’s. Through two landmark workshops and by establishing the first Studio Glass curriculum at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, he helped to bring glass out of the factory and into the artists’ studio. A letter circulated by his family states that his death came “after a long decline.” A private celebration of his life, and that of his wife, Bess, who died in October 2009, was held by the family on January 11th.

Littleton attended Brighton School of Art in England, received his Bachelors of Design at the University of Michigan, and received his M.F.A. from Cranbrook Academy of Art. In his role as an educator, Harvey was an “…outspoken and eloquent advocate of university education in the arts.” He organized the first hot glass program at an American university (the University of Wisconsin–Madison) and promoted the idea of glass as a course of study in university art departments in the Midwest and northeastern United States. Several of Harvey Littleton’s students went on to disseminate the study of glass art throughout the U.S., including Marvin Lipofsky, who started a glass program at the University of California at Berkeley and Dale Chihuly, who developed the glass program at the Rhode Island School of Design and later was a founder of Pilchuck Glass School in Stanwood, Washington. Harvey retired from teaching in 1976 to focus on his own art.


Exploring the inherent qualities of the medium, Littleton worked in series with simple forms to draw attention to the complex interplay of transparent glass with multiple overlays of thin color. He was married to Bess Tamura Littleton in 1947. She died on October 8, 2009. The couple had four children: Carol L. Shay, Thomas Littleton, Maurine Littleton and John Littleton. All work in the field of glass art. Carol L. Shay is the curator at Littleton Studios; Tom Littleton owns and manages Spruce Pine Batch Company, which supplies batch (the dry ingredients of which glass is made) to artists and art departments around the U.S.; Maurine Littleton is the owner and director of Maurine Littleton Gallery which specializes in glass art, in Washington, DC; John Littleton is a glass artist his wife and collaborative partner, Kate Vogel, in Bakersville, NC.

Harvey’s work can be found in the collection of the High Museum of Art, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Museum of Modern Art, New York, Renwick Gallery of the Smithsonian Institution, the Victoria & Albert Museum in England, amongst others.


Donations in Harvey Littleton’s name can be made to The Hospice and Palliative Care Center of Mitchell County that provided invaluable support to his family in the care for Harvey, and/or to the Penland School of Crafts “Harvey and Bess Littleton Scholarship Fund” that provides one full scholarship for a two-week summer session in hot glass.

Source: The Corning Museum of Glass