. And so today I found out that… One of America’s most acclaimed artists, Louis Comfort Tiffany’s career spanned from the 1870s through the 1920s. He embraced virtually all artistic and decorative medium, designing and directing his studios to produce leaded-glass windows, mosaics, lighting, glass, pottery, metalwork, enamels, jewelry, and interiors. As the son of Charles Lewis Tiffany (1812–1902), founder of Tiffany & Company, the fancy goods store that became the renowned jewelry and silver firm, Tiffany chose to pursue his own artistic interests in lieu of joining the family business. He is the American artist most associated with the Art Nouveau and Aesthetic movements. Beginning in the late 1870s, Tiffany turned his attention to decorative arts and interiors, although he never abandoned painting. His first significant interior design project was for his 1878 top-floor home and studio at the Bella Apartments on 48 East 26th Street in New York City. The leaded-glass window from the entrance hall , one of his earliest windows, illustrates an unconventional use of glass, including experhymental opalescent, marbleized, and confetti-type glass, as well as crown glass and rough-cut “jewels. ” This glass fashioned a window of strikingly abstract design suggestive of a bold paintbrush stroke. By late 1892 or early 1893, Tiffany built a glasshouse in Corona, Queens, New York, and, with Arthur Nash, a skilled glassworker from Stourbridge, England, his furnaces developed a method whereby different colors were blended together in the molten state, achieving subtle effects of shading and texture. Recalling the Old English word fabrile (hand-wrought), Tiffany named the blown glass from his furnaces Favrile, a trademark that signified glass of hand-made and unique quality. One of these new techniques produced glass that resembled Lava or “volcanic” glass, with broad areas of gold luster meant to mimic hot molten rock spilling from the mouth of a volcano. The rough, black areas were made by introducing bits of basalt or talc into the molten glass formed into vases in organic, irregular shapes. Of all of Tiffany’s artistic endeavors, leaded-glass brought him the greatest recognition. Tiffany and his early rival, John La Farge, revolutionized the look of stained glass, which had remained essentially unchanged since medieval times when craftsmen utilized flat panes of white and colored glass with details painted with glass paints before firing and leading. By 1881, each had patented an opalescent glass, a unique American phenomenon that featured a milky, opaque, and sometimes rainbow-hued appearance with the introduction of light. Magnolias and Irises (1981. 159), executed by Tiffany Studios around 1908, was designed as a memorial window based on a well-known motif—the River of Life. It depicts magnolias composed of opalescent drapery glass, heavily folded or creased glass, and iris in multihued tones illustrating Tiffany’s ability to “paint” with glass. Growing out of an interest in interior decorating, Tiffany and his studios turned toward another venture in 1898—lighting and lamps. Although Tiffany’s craftsmen used patterns to make lampshades, each was unique due to the selection of the individual pieces of glass with their varied colors and densities. Mosaics were also a natural progression and extension of Tiffany’s work in Favrile and leaded glass. Glass mosaics were used in interior settings, initially for church interiors and fireplace surrounds, but then developed into full artistic works. Inspired by Byzantine churches Tiffany surveyed on his European travels that used flat, solid-color squares, or tesserae, he improved upon the tradition by incorporating innovative techniques of modeling and shading to have a wide range of colors within glass. Glass was also cut into different shapes to enhance pictorial qualities. In 1899, Tiffany introduced enamelwork in London, where he exhibited plaques and vases made in the firm’s unique style. Layers of translucent enamel in wide-ranging naturalistically shaded hues were applied to a luminous surface that was usually gilt, and finished and an iridescent coating that provided a rainbow luster. Tiffany launched a pottery studio, capitalizing on the extraordinary popularity of American ceramic vessels at the turn of the century. His designs were inspired by contemporary European, particularly French, ceramics, exceptional examples of which he had seen on trips to Paris. Tiffany was knowledgeable about jewelry trends through art periodicals, international expositions, and, of course, his father’s firm, Tiffany & Company—to which he was appointed art director upon his father’s death in 1902. His
Hear the February 13, 2014 lecture from historian and author Paul Doros and the Museum’s curator of American glass Kelly Conway about the life and work of Lo. . .