When we think of American Art Nouveau art glass, the objects that first spring to mind are probably the leaded lamp shades and iridescent vases of Louis Comfort Tiffany (1848-1933). The son of Charles Lewis Tiffany, the famous jewelry designer, Tiffany studied painting with the great landscape painter George Inness; later, in Paris, he learned art glass techniques from the French master Emile Galle. These experiences informed Tiffany’s work at Louis C. Tiffany and Co., Associated Artists, which he established in 1879. The firm was renamed Tiffany Glass Co. in 1885, Tiffany Glass and Decorating Co. in 1892, and Tiffany Studios in 1900.
Another influence on Tiffany was ancient Greek and Roman glass, both the finishes and forms. Yet despite his focus on classic designs and naturalistic imagery, Tiffany was a technological innovator. Perhaps because he was a designer rather than an artisan, Tiffany worked and collaborated with some of the best thinkers, inventors, and craftsmen of his day. For his glass studio, Tiffany hired British chemist Arthur J. Nash, who remained with the firm until 1919; his son took it over in 1928.
The advent of electricity was also of keen interest to Tiffany. For an 1885 commission of sconces for the Lyceum Theatre in New York, Tiffany worked with Thomas A. Edison, who installed some of the electrical lighting himself. By 1906, Tiffany Studios was selling more than 400 models of electric and oil lamps and hanging shades.
Throughout, blown glass remained a preoccupation for Tiffany — it was, after all, why he had brought Nash to the firm in the first place. In order to have as much control on the process as possible, in 1893 Tiffany installed glass-blowing furnaces at his studio. A year later, with the help of Nash’s glass recipes, which Nash reportedly never revealed even to Tiffany, the Favrile brand was born.
Favrile glass was prized then, and is still admired today, for its eye-catching iridescent surfaces. The Favrile line included classic forms harking back to Tiffany’s fondness for all things ancient, as well as for new inventions like the paperweight vases, which are technical marvels that remain difficult for contemporary artists and artisans to duplicate to this day.
The paperweight vases are thick, making them a challenge to keep balanced on the end of a blow pipe, with a layer of decoration (usually flowers created from millefiori) sandwiched between clear layers of aqua-colored glass. A signed piece with no chips can bring tens of thousands of dollars at auction.
At the beginning of the 20th century, Tiffany’s love for leaded-glass windows and electrical lamps combined into a series of lamp shades on bronze bases. Despite being made of hard materials, the lamp shades seem to drip and drape over their light sources, in dense organic patterns resembling wisteria, apple blossoms, and other plants and trees...
After Tiffany’s death, his studios continued to produce stained glass windows for churches, but within a few years, as the Depression deepened, the studio closed (Tiffany never jumped on the Art Deco bandwagon). Today, Tiffany glass remains among the world’s most collected types of art glass, which has also made it a favorite of everyone from forgers to legitimate art-glass studios, many of whom have made names for themselves by producing historically accurate pieces in the 'Tiffany style.'
Key terms for Tiffany Art Glass:
Favrile: A technique for producing iridescent glass, patented by Louis Comfort Tiffany in 1894, in which metallic and chemical compounds are applied to molten glass. Iridescence is achieved when air to the furnace is reduced, a process known as reduction, leaving only the metallic part of the compound on the surface of the glass.
Millefiori: An ancient glass technique, popularized in the 19th century, in which rods of fused glass are cut into cross sections to reveal patterns, frequently resembling flowers.
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Wedding Week: Should you go off-registry for that wedding gift? Brides weigh inTampabay.com (blog), February 10th
"Probably the worst gift was a piece of art," said a 2015 bride. A wedding guest backed out ... A favorite wedding gift was a dainty glass wine decanter with equally delicate and matching wine glasses. They were a gift from Dad's co-workers. We still...Read more
Nash and Tiffany's histories artfully entwinedFlorida Weekly, February 9th
Today, the name Tiffany may mean leaded glass lamps or a jewelry store started by Charles Tiffany. But the name Tiffany is on many different types of art. In 1893, Arthur Nash moved from England with his sons to work at the Tiffany Glass Works in...Read more
Palm Beach Jewelry, Art & Antique Show Returns with Extended RunBLOUIN ARTINFO, February 9th
The 2016 edition of the Palm Beach Jewelry, Art & Antique Show is bigger, better, and longer — extended to six days from the previous five. Collectors and treasure hunters can look forward to perusing unique finds from more than 160 international...Read more
Galeries Lafayette Taps Bjarke Ingels for High-Concept Champs-Élysées FlagshipThe Business of Fashion, February 9th
The company, based in Copenhagen and New York, specialises in unapologetically imposing buildings, from the nearly completed residential project Via 57 on West 57th Street in Manhattan to Google's glass-roofed future headquarters in Silicon Valley...Read more
Original Chihuly sculpture stolen from St. Petersburg gallery, police sayTampabay.com, February 8th
It is part of a series of works styled after Venetian Art Deco classics. William Warmus, former curator of modern glass at the Corning Museum of Glass in New York, said he often speaks of Dale Chihuly, along with Louis Comfort Tiffany, as the 20th...Read more
Bloomingdale sisters performing together in Rodgers and Hammerstein's 'South ...NorthJersey.com, February 7th
She is currently working in NYC in the corporate offices of Tiffany & Co. Also an aspiring actress, Katrina is a two-time performer for Paper Mill's Summer Musical Theater Conservatory, a graduate of Mason Gross School of the Art's Summer Acting...Read more
Auction watch: Smalls might draw big bids at upcoming salesTribune-Review, February 7th
Among a smattering of Tiffany art glass, bidders will find a Tiffany Studios d'ore bronze and favrile glass trumpet vase with city roots. Known by some for his pictures of Hollywood actresses such as Marilyn Monroe, photographer Willy Rizzo crafted a...Read more
WV Travel Team: Winter Park — A surprising Florida detourCharleston Gazette-Mail (subscription), February 6th
The exhilaration of the boat ride still couldn't overshadow our central purpose: to revisit the Morse Museum and its collection of art works in every media by the legendary Louis Comfort Tiffany. There are rooms of Tiffany lamps, windows and art glass...Read more