Research: Reverse Sign Writing

Since coming back to the UK I've been trying to track down traces of a reverse oil on glass painting tradition that might be more local to me than Croatia. I've had some interesting leads and over time I'll put up posts with my findings. 

To start with though I went on-line to the V&A Museum archives. They don't have everything listed and many items appear without photo - but it gave me an idea of where to start my adventures and so I made an appointment to visit their Prints and Painting Study Room. 

On my first visit, my best discovery and lead so far on the technique of reverse glass painting as a historical, yet living-breathing contemporary craft came from file references E108.1955 and E109-1955. Two boxes, each containing three 'oil and gold leaf on glass' alphabet letters. Apparently cut from a long-ago window they look like letters out of a Victorian shop front or, for those with American roots, from the main street window of a Wild West Saloon. Gorgeously executed gold leaf letters, plain and ornately embossed to the reverse side of the glass with oil paint and/or painted backboards behind. 

Disappointingly no one on the staff seemed to know much beyond when the items were donated to the collection, though I suppose I was fairly naive to expect that they'd know everything of the who, what and how. However, a very kind research assistant suggested I search 'reverse signwriting' on-line. Now, in all my internet browsing I'd tried 'reverse painting' many a time and turned up next to nothing, but this just goes to show how very specific some searches must be in order to turn over gold!

If you'd like a visual feast for the eyes, do check out Osborne Signs and David Adrian Smith.

As for me, I'll be back soon with another of my V&A finds ...

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