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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Recent News: Tiffany Art Glass
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New tea room is a glass act at Haworth Art GalleryLancashire Telegraph, July 6th
Art Gallery can now partake of brunch and afternoon tea at a sumptuous new tea room which has opened there. The Gallery Kitchen is set to prove as big a draw as the gallery itself, which is famous for having the largest collection of Tiffany glass...Read more
What will kitchens of the future look like?Omaha World-Herald, July 4th
But here are just a few possibilities of things you might find in a state-of-the-art kitchen come 2025. ... Induction cook surfaces are distinguished only by a plate of glass or other material. .... That being said, designers Kemp, from Consolidated...Read more
Travel: Eating and drinking my way through Ann ArborLexington Herald Leader, July 4th
One place no visitor should miss is the University of Michigan Museum of Art. With 18,000 works of art representing 150 years of collecting, this is like no university art museum in the country. Its emphasis is on Chinese paintings and Japanese and...Read more
Artistic offerings the cherry on top of the Greenbrier ClassicCharleston Daily Mail, July 1st
“I'm gonna cry, it's so beautiful,” said Nicholas Armour, 4, of Jupiter, Fla., as he watched the spinning tines of the “kinetic art” on display at the Garden Gallery, an eclectic lawn ornament shop near the Greenbrier's Springhouse. Armour was in the...Read more
3 Days in…Orlando: Beyond the Theme ParksSuccessful Meetings, July 1st
Sure it has seven of the world's top theme parks. But that's not all there is to Orlando. There are more than 100 other amazing attractions in the greater Orlando area. Add to that an eclectic dining scene, and this destination is ready for anything a...Read more
A Sale Two Years in the MakingMaine Antique Digest, July 1st
Well-known names in antiques collecting were scattered throughout: Joel Palmer, Tiffany, William Mountz, Samuel Plank, Hamilton & Jones, Parker Brothers, Henry W. Stiegel, etc. It is hard to ... Among the smalls were an 18" butter bowl in yellow ($550...Read more
Free admission as Morse Museum celebrates 20 years on Park Ave.Orlando Sentinel, June 26th
Hosmer Morse's daughter; and "Selections from the Harry C. Sigman Gift of European and American Decorative Art," an informal preview of a recent donation that has further strengthened the museum's collection of late 19th- and early 20th-century...Read more
Trio of Artists Honored at St. Ann's Warehouse FundraiserWall Street Journal, June 17th
“And aren't the acoustics amazing?” asked Ms. Feldman. St. Ann's presented Messrs. Hoggett, Tiffany and Walsh each with a glass brick reading “What are we, if we're not our stories?” The new Tobacco Warehouse has a roof extension made with glass bricks ...Read more