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Arts of North America

Art created in North America includes objects made by native cultures of the present-day United States and Canada; paintings and decorative arts produced during colonial times; 18th- and 19th-century masterpieces; and the work of contemporary artists and photographers.

© William Morris
American, born 1957
Rhyton Vessel
Blown glass

19 x 13 x 7 3/8 inches

The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston

Gift of the Bill and Sara Morgan Family Foundation
of the Greater Houston Community Foundation

Arts of North America

The work of William Morris, who founded his glassmaking studio in the 1980s, reflects his fascination with Native American, ancient Egyptian, Cycladic, and African cultures. Morris's complex forms are often closely tied to animals, artifacts, myths, and history, and he is renowned for his ability to transcend glass’s natural properties so that it appears to be a different material altogether.

In 1996, Morris began working on the Rhyton series. The Rhytons take the form of horned animals and are inspired by a type of ceramic or bronze drinking vessel popular in ancient Greece, Rome, and Persia. Morris’s Rhytons almost always appear as horned animals resembling quadrupeds such as horses, bulls, or stags and are often paired with large rounded stone or pouch-like forms. Many, as seen here, carry vessels or other accoutrements on their backs. This Rhyton Vessel demonstrates Morris’s remarkable skill in capturing the essence of an animal’s spiritual power. Majestic and symbolic, the work touches on the primal nature of life, drawing the viewer into its otherworldly orbit.