COMFORT TIFFANY BIOGRAPHY:
Louis Comfort Tiffany
was born on January 17, 1848, the son of Charles Lewis Tiffany,
and began his career as a painter in the 1860s and 1870s. His
father Charles had founded the most prestigious jewelry and
silver store in America Tiffany & Co., so young Louis grew
up surrounded by the decorative arts. Charles Tiffany introduced
the nation's first retail catalogue, and his obsession with
the simple elegance of classic silver design earned Tiffany
& Co. the highly coveted Award of Merit at the Paris Exposition
Universelle in 1867. This was the first time an American company
had been recognized by a European jury.
After studying under
the American landscape painter George Inness, Lewis Comfort
Tiffany learned to combine the use of light, color and nature
in his work. He received praise for his oils and watercolors,
which included scenes from his travels in Europe and North Africa.
By 1880, Tiffany had established himself as a artist and became
the youngest member of the National Academy of Design. Already
at this young age, Tiffany dedicated his life to "the pursuit
Tiffany’s travels not
only influenced his career but also acquainted him with the
designs of medieval and Roman glass. Glass would offer a new
field of challenge for Tiffany, and he began experimenting with
the chemistry and techniques of glassmaking at the age of 24.
This would lead him to his next endeavor in design and decorative
arts as an interior designer. His commissions for Mark Twain,
Cornelius Vanderbilt and the White House under President Chester
Arthur earned him an international reputation and great success.
Stained-glass windows were a feature in these interiors.
While continuing to
do commissions, Tiffany founded his own firm in 1885 and focused
on art glass. Earlier, Louis had already registered for a patent
on a new glassmaking technique of combining different colors
in opalescent glass to create vibrant, multidimensional hues
of color never before seen in glass. With the help of chemists,
craftsmen, and glass designers, he was able to make stained
glass in over 5000 different colors and textures. This challenged
the traditional approach of painting on glass to create multicolored
effects. Tiffany became an enthusiastic supporter of the European
Nouveau movement, challenging the current Victorian ornate
style. Art Nouveau used free-flowing designs based on nature
that exemplified the characteristics prevalent in Tiffany’s
earlier creations as a landscape painter. The use of light,
color and nature assumed greater significance in Tiffany’s work
as he developed his unique approach to Art Nouveau. Tiffany's
work was displayed in Europe at the most important venue for
the introduction of Art Nouveau, Siegfried Bing's L'Art Nouveau.
In an effort to reach
the interiors of a greater population, Tiffany began to design
lamps to allow more people to enjoy art and beauty in their
own home. Colored glass, Tiffany’s lasting love and challenge,
found fresh scope and inspiration. While the windows served
to transmit the light of day, the lamps represent a new source
of illumination independent of daylight. Fabrication of the
lamps began in 1885, with the majority of them being made between
1895 and 1920. It was not until 1899 that Tiffany publicly introduced
the lamps for sale.
Tiffany is best known
for his designs of glass vessels, lamps and windows, but he
also created items in various other media including metalwork,
furniture, jewelry and ceramics, introducing enamels in 1898,
art pottery in 1900, and jewelry in 1904. He established a metalwork
department, producing lamps, desk sets, and chandeliers that
were sold through his New York showroom, company catalogues
and department stores. He designed most anything having to do
with interior design, including even textiles and wall coverings.
His remarkable career spanned over five decades, including his
tenure with L.C. Tiffany & Associated Artists, the Tiffany
Glass Company, Tiffany Studios, Tiffany Furnaces and the L.C.
By Tiffany’s death on
February 18, 1933, the popularity of his elaborate lamps declined
with the rise of Art Moderne and Expressionism. For two decades
the designs of Louis Comfort Tiffany were forgotten. It was
not until the first Tiffany retrospective show in 1958 that
his objects were rediscovered by museums and collectors. Awareness
of Tiffany’s craftsmanship escalated with an Art Nouveau show
in 1960 at the Museum of Modern Art. Today the designs of Louis
Comfort Tiffany are honored and treasured around the world,
confirming Tiffany’s legacy as a visionary of Art Nouveau design.
Louis Comfort Tiffany
1848 - 1933
Tiffany Studios, Corona, NY
Charles Lewis Tiffany
of the Knoxville Museum of Art and Traditional Fine Art
THE LAMPS OF TIFFANY:
As the son of Charles
Lewis Tiffany, the legendary founder of the silver and jewelry
firm, Tiffany and Co., Louis chose to pursue his love of art
instead of following in the family business, gaining acclaim
for his oils and watercolors in the 1860s and 1870s. In the
1880s, however, he turned his attention to interior design as
"a way to provide good art for American homes." His diverse
career spanned 57 years.
As one of America’s
most influential artists, designers and craftsmen of the century,
Tiffany wanted to bring decorative arts to the same status as
fine arts. The lamps of Louis Comfort Tiffany signify this quest
to bring beauty into the home. After collaborating to light
the first movie theater, friend Thomas Edison suggested the
idea of making electric fixtures. Tiffany soon began to create
lamps as small versions of his exquisite stained-glass windows
and developed the idea into a new art form. He first began experimenting
with lamps in 1895 although they were not offered for sale in
his showroom until 1899. Tiffany’s lamps, most of which were
made between 1897 and 1920, were and still are recognized for
their superior design and handcrafted details.
In addition to bringing
beauty to the masses, Tiffany also made discoveries in the process
for formulating glass. Tiffany developed a unique process that
created bolder colors, opalescent sheens and a broader range
of textures for artisans. He patented four types of glass over
a period of two decades and worked with teams of craftsmen to
manufacture stained-glass windows, lamps and lamp bases. He
used the leading inherent in the design of his leaded glass
lamps to add to the naturalistic forms, letting it represent,
for example, the stems of plants.
The motifs in Tiffany’s
elaborate lamps were inspired by his love of nature, and the
names of his lamp designs are indicative as they include the
dragonfly, dogwood, peacock, peony, daffodil, laburnum, wisteria,
poppy, acorn, water lily, and more. Tiffany stated that his
lamps allowed more people to enjoy the elements of nature, such
as flowers in bloom, all year long in the beauty of his glass.
While most Tiffany Studios incorporated bronze bases into their
design, he also teamed with the Grueby
Pottery to add their fine art pottery bases into early Tiffany
oil lamp canister designs.
In the 1930s and 1940s,
Tiffany lamps were considered too ornate by modern fashion standards
and lost their popular appeal. By the late 1950s, Tiffany objects
were rediscovered with great interest by collectors and museums.
In 1998, two Tiffany lamps made the top ten list of United States
auction prices for decorative arts bringing in nearly $2 million
Tiffany lamps are commonly
grouped into the following categories:
The term Favrile, meaning handcrafted, is associated with the
first and simplest shades made by Louis Comfort Tiffany. An
early patent obtained by Tiffany under the name Favrile encompassed
several types of glass used in the manufacture of stained-glass
windows as well as leaded and blown shades. However, the term
now is associated with blown forms such as shades and other
types of hollow ware. Favrile pieces are generally inscribed
L.C.T. or Favrile, while shades made from leaded glass are labeled
with impressed metal signature tags.
The term geometric is applied to the group of leaded-glass shades
with the simplest designs, and includes standard geometric shapes
such as squares, triangles, rectangles, ovals, ellipses, and
rhomboids used on panel, cone, and globe-shaped shades. Unlike
blown shades, the geometric and all ensuing groups were fabricated
from pieces of poured glass cut in segments, edged with copper
foil and leaded or soldered together to form a complete unit.
A patinated bronze finish was then applied to the lead or solder
lines. The geometric group is divided into two basic types:
shades made from a large number of small glass pieces and those
made from a limited number of large glass pieces, such as turtleback
tiles and Favrile Fabrique panels.
Transition to Flowers
Group: The transition to flowers group serves as a bridge
between the geometric and floral shades. It includes globe-shaped
shades of basic geometric design with added botanical motifs.
The group is divided into two categories: geometric shades with
borders or belts of flowers and vines, and shades with scattered
floral or leaf patterns on geometric backgrounds.
Flowered Cone Group:
Botanical patterns, which were introduced in moderation on shades
in the transition group, are employed en masse in the cone group.
As described by Tiffany Studios in a 1906 catalogue, cone shades
are straight-sided with circular rims. They are easier to manufacture
than leaded shades with curved or rounded sides, hence the greater
number of shades in this category. While cone-shaped shades
are found in the geometric group, they are classified there
by design rather than form. Another natural motif applied to
cone-shaped shades is the dragonfly. This insect design is developed
further in the flowered globe and irregular lower border groups.
Flowered Globe Group:
The flowered globe group is more complex in construction than
the preceding group of cone-shaped shades. In terms of decorative
progression, their shape permits a more natural rendering of
the botanical and insect motifs. Tiffany Studios referred to
this type of "domed" in its 1906 catalogue. Globes range in
size from twelve inches to twenty-eight inches in diameter.
Irregular Lower Border
Group: The shades in this group take on a more naturalistic
form, with flowing, serpentine rims. The uninterrupted metal
edge and stylized band of the preceding groups have been replaced
with a curvilinear lower border. Except for the panel shades
used with the grape trellis motif, all the shades in this group
are globular in shape. The natural termination of leaves, fruits,
insect bodies, and flowers give shades in the irregular lower
border group an Art Nouveau character often associated with
Irregular Upper &
Lower Borders Group: At the final phase of development are
shades with both irregular upper and lower borders. In this
group the artificial straight edge of the aperture is replaced
by an openwork crown that simulates tree branches or shrubbery.
Finials have been eliminated, and light and heat are diffused
through the crown. The combination of the irregular upper and
lower border is, according to Egon Neustadt (author of world
standard reference source Lamps
of Tiffany), "the consummate Tiffany Studios Shade."
of the Knoxville Museum of Art and Traditional Fine Art
TIFFANY FAVRILE ART
At first, Tiffany used
glass used by outside firms, but this did not give him total
satisfaction. As his fascination with glass grew, he experimented
with lustering techniques, largely inspired by the natural iridescence
of ancient Roman glass. He patented his first glass-lustering
technique in 1881. Favrile glass, the trademark for Tiffany
handmade glass, resulted from these experiments and, with the
exception of Tiffany lamps, it is the ware for which he is best
Tiffany set up his own
glasshouse at Corona, Long Island and put a brilliant Englishman,
Arthur J. Nash, in charge. His previous companies had all been
concerned with interior decoration; this one, Tiffany Furnaces,
concentrated on decorative blown glassware. In 1893 Tiffany
introduced his first hand blown-glass vases and bowls, which
he called "Favrile." The word Favrile was taken by Tiffany from
an old English word for hand made. Tiffany Favrile glass quickly
gained international renown for its surface iridescence and
Tiffany, no craftsman
himself, died considerably less wealthy than he began, because
of his own fascination with the capabilities of glass in the
furnace. He was not content to leave the experiments to his
skilled workers, and he would not abandon his own ideas even
when Nash was satisfied, after repeated efforts, that they would
not work. Such interference was not cost effective, but it was
symptomatic of what he was trying to do. He was a leader and
Tiffany glass was never a shadow of other men's work.
Daum, Moser and the Muller Brothers, all working in Art Nouveau,
created their effects mainly on the bench by cutting, etching,
and enameling glass. Even though Tiffany's very small output
of cameo glass was carved, the overwhelming majority of his
ware were produced entirely in the furnace, and no Tiffany glass
was ever enameled.
The Tiffany School of
glassware was smaller than that of Galle, but of those who followed
his ideas, Loetz
of Bohemia is the best known. This firm also relied on the furnace
rather than the workbench for decorative effects. Although Loetz
produced a vast quantity of free-blown iridescent glass that
was priced for a broad market, the quality of their glass remained
excellent. The Loetz company acknowledged that its wares were
inspired by L.C. Tiffany.
Tiffany developed a
whole range of unique glassware by trying out and perfecting
new techniques in the furnace. The glass itself was of the best
quality, its colors achieved by the addition of metallic oxides,
variable by temperature within the furnace.
His lustering technique,
with its iridescent effect, was the most important because it
was his hallmark, used in many different wares. This involved
dissolving salts of metallic oxides in the molten glass, so
creating the chosen colors -- soft greens, blues, golds, etc.
The metallic content was then brought to the surface by subjecting
the glass to a reducing flame and spraying with another chloride.
This treatment caused the surface to crackle into a profusion
of tiny lines that refracted light. The skill of the blower
was paramount in this, because Tiffany glass was free blown.
Speed was necessary to achieve the desired effect before the
molten glass cooled. With intricate Tiffany specialties, like
the peacock feather motif or a jack-in-the-pulpit vase, executing
this technique was very difficult.
is rare and therefore expensive. Lava glass, with its glorious
golden trails on rough-surfaced basalt, and Cypriote glass,
rolled in fragmented crumbs of glass to give the impression
of old Roman glass, are examples of iridized pieces of Tiffany
ware. Damascene glass is another such specialty, developed c.1910,
which incorporates striped of golden luster giving the appearance
of damascened steel when blown into wavy stripes. Agate glass
exhibits a marbled effect resulting from a mixture of various
Many Tiffany specialties
were developed from ancient forms and styles. For example, the
technique for creating millefiori had been used 2000 years ago,
but not by Tiffany's methods or with his luster finish. The
closely packed "thousand flowers " of millefiori, most familiar
in French paperweights, were formed by fusing tiny rods of colored
glass. Tiffany did not place segments of these rods in close
proximity as in paperweights. Rather, in the celebrated Tiffany
floral vases, a patch of opalescent glass and the whole was
reheated, allowing the well-separated flowers to be molded into
the body before the piece received its iridescent finish. Some
items decorated in this manner were cased with a layer of clear
glass, sometimes called Tiffany paperweight glass. Aquamarine
glass, made in much the same way, was embedded with marine decoration
and wavy green sea vegetation occasionally with fish or pebbles.
In these works, the heavy green glass was intended to simulate
the sea, and those with fish and sea life are the most
rare. These vases produced c 1905-1915 were made according to
paperweight making techniques, but what would be a flaw in a
paperweight, i.e. bubbles of air, adds to the naturalistic effect
as bubbles rising to the surface of the water. In 2002, a Tiffany
Favrile aquamarine Goldfish vase, one of only 2 known to exist,
sold for $532,000 setting a new record for Tiffany glass.
Tiffany glass comes
in all sorts of colors and can give the impression of having
been formed by pure chance. The vast majority of his lustered
wares were vases, but a few dishes and bowls were also produced.
Like all worthwhile products, Tiffany glass was often faked,
so that great care must be taken when buying; prices are too
high for mistakes. Tiffany glassware was at its best from the
late 1890s to 1918. Many of the glass forms were perfected after
1900 and were manufactured under several company names. Most
of it was signed, either stamped or engraved around the pontil,
with a model number and the initials "LCT," "Tiffany Studios
N.Y." (responsible for most of the bronze wares), or "Louis
C. Tiffany Favrile". Forged Tiffany marks are not always obvious,
but fakes rarely measure up to Tiffany standards.
Tiffany retired in 1918,
but he kept a watchful eye on the company. Nash carried on the
business, but his later work, fighting a rearguard action against
Deco, was not of the same quality. In 1928, L.C. Tiffany
severed all connection with the firm, withdrawing permission
to use his name. By his vision and energy, L.C. Tiffany succeeded
in blending classical motifs with bold new techniques in glassmaking
to create a distinctive American art form. The demand for Tiffany
glass among today's collectors attests to the lasting value
of his work.
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