Biographical / Historical
Author, lecturer, and painter, Paul Hollister (1918-2004) was one of the foremost scholars in 17th to 19th century glass studies, glass paperweights, and contemporary studio art glass. He wrote over 150 articles and half a dozen books on the topic of glass. Born in New York City and raised in Boston, Hollister graduated from Harvard College in 1941 with a Bachelor’s in Fine Arts. He was a self-taught painter working mostly in oils and first exhibited his work in 1947 at a juried show in New York City. Throughout his life he continued to display his art in solo and group shows. Some of his paintings are in the collections of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, MA and the Montana Museum in Helena, MT. He also taught journalism at the New York University Department of Journalism and was a freelance journalist, writing book reviews for the New York Times, the New York Post and the Manchester Guardian.
Upon the death of his mother, he inherited ten paperweights she had collected over the years while traveling in Europe. He decided to research the history and properties of these paperweights and eventually started collecting his own paperweights at antique shows and auctions. Hollister kept file cards on each paperweight in his collection and the information he gathered became so extensive that his wife, Irene, suggested he write a book on the topic. Published in 1969, The Encyclopedia of Glass Paperweights was the first comprehensive examination of the history and production of paperweights and remains one of the best resources on the topic. Hollister would go on to publish several more books and museum catalogs on the subject of paperweights including Glass Paperweights of the New-York Historical Society (1974), Glass Paperweights: An Old Craft Revived (1975) and Paperweights: “Flowers which clothe the meadows” (1978), the catalog for an exhibition of over 300 paperweights that he curated with Dwight Lanmon for The Corning Museum of Glass.
In 1977 Hollister sold his personal collection of antique and contemporary glass paperweights, and though somewhat difficult to give up, he later stated “At that point I was writing about all sorts of other types of glass and getting into that…It was time to start something new” (Paperweight News). These new topics included medieval windows, the glazing of the Crystal Palace, the depiction of glass in the paintings of Vermeer, and the contemporary studio glass movement. He was the editor of The Glass Club Bulletin from 1975-1985 and became a frequent lecturer at institutions such as The Corning Museum of Glass, the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the New-York Historical Society. From 1984 to 1993, Hollister taught the glass survey course for the Cooper-Hewitt Master’s Program in Decorative Arts. He was also an adjunct associate professor at the Bard Graduate Center for Studies in the Decorative Arts from 1993 to 1994. He donated his collection of literature on glass to form the basis of the Bard Graduate Center’s glass library.
He and Irene moved to Hanover, New Hampshire in 1997 where he continued to paint and contribute to scholarly research on glass studies. Hollister passed away on July 2, 2004. In 2007 Irene established the Paul and Irene Hollister Endowed Lecture on Glass at the Bard Graduate Center.
Ostergard, D. (2004). Paul Hollister, 1918-2004. Glass Circle News, no. 101, 12.
Selman, L. H. (1986). Scholar and paperweight expert Paul Hollister. Paperweight News, 8(4), 2-5.