Reverse painting on glass is an art form consisting of applying paint to a piece of glass and then viewing the image by turning the glass over and looking through the glass at the image. Another term used to refer to the art of cold painting and gilding on the back of glass is verre églomisé, named after the French decorator Jean-Baptiste Glomy (1711-86), who framed prints using glass that had been reverse-painted. In German it is known as Hinterglasmalerei.
This art form has been around for many years. It was widely used for sacral paintings since the Middle Ages. The most famous was the art of icons in the Byzantine Empire. Later the painting on glass spread to Italy, where in Venice it influenced its Renaissance art. Since the middle of the 18th century, painting on glass became favored by the Church and the nobility throughout Central Europe. A number of clock faces were created using this technique in the early-to-mid-19th century. Throughout the 19th century painting on glass was widely popular as folk art in Austria, Bavaria, Moravia, Bohemia and Slovakia. Unfortunately, during the inter-war period (1914-1945) this traditional "naive" technique fell nearly to a complete oblivion and its methods of paint composition and structural layout had to be re-invented by combining acrylic and oil paints. A new method of reverse painting emerged using polymer glazing methods that permitted the artworks to be painted direct to an acrylic UV coating on the glass. The unique under glass effect retains a curious depth even though the layered painting on the glass was bonded to a final linen support and now stretcher bar mounted after being carefully removed from the original 'glass easel'. Current glass painting may disappear with the advent of using aerospace mylar as a preliminary support.
The technique of reverse glass painting reached India by way of the China Trade in the second half of the 18th century, and there flourished a brisk market for Chinese reverse glass paintings on the west coast of India. Indian artists learnt the technique soon after, and began producing reverse glass paintings reflecting Indian tradition. These paintings became a cheap alternative to the decadent religious paintings which were popular in southern India at the time. Most Indian reverse glass paintings portray scenes and characters from Indian mythology, while some depict secular themes such as portraits of kings, nobles, courtesans and musicians. The paintings are characterized by their bold style, rich colours and subjects portrayed in opulence. Reverse glass paintings thrived in India until the mid-19th century.
George Huszar creating an Icon