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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Ferguson Gallery holds open house to celebrate new Ferguson-Fenton Artistic ...The Beacon, August 19th
Fenton Glass Company, established in 1905, created a glass product that would compete with Tiffany and Steuben all while making products unique to the company and to Ohio as well. Ferguson Gallery, having its own rich history, is another Ohio glass...Read more
Sense and Sensuality: Art Nouveau, Sainsbury Centre, Norwich, review ...Telegraph.co.uk, August 19th
But the fabrics and wallpapers of William Morris also have a lot to do with art nouveau, as do the cascading patterns of coloured glass in lamps by the American Louis Comfort Tiffany. Art Nouveau was above all else a highly commercial style. It's...Read more
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Another 50 to 80 items make up what the company calls its “collection”: These are its more aggressively styled fixtures, art pieces, and the like that are refreshed every six months, akin to a spring and fall collection. The end ... I'm standing in...Read more
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Probably my favorite is the Veterans Room, with windows and lights by Louis Comfort Tiffany. The renovated Board of ... And -- imagine the fun -- each member of an artist-in-residence program gets individual space in the period rooms to develop new...Read more
UPDATE: Is it true Tiffany at Trinity?Delmarva Daily Times, August 15th
A triptych at Trinity United Methodist Church, “The Ascended Christ,” is believed to be a creation by famed glass artist Louis C. Tiffany. A glass expert will render an opinion next month about whether these and similar panes at the church are...Read more
Ten Years of Tiffany Art Coins with Glass InlaysCoin Update News, August 15th
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Wheaton Arts salutes NJ's birthday, glass-making pastVineland Daily Journal, August 3rd
Durand glass has similar elements of shape, pattern and color that originated with Tiffany's earlier Art Nouveau glass. However, a signature of the Vineland “fancy shop” was the addition of crackled glass (putting hot glass into water caused fractures...Read more
Thomas Webb & Sons Art Glass Vase Brings $260000Maine Antique Digest, July 28th
Another Thomas Webb & Sons English cameo art glass vase, signed “G. Woodall,” 8½" high, with a blue background with carved white opal overlay featuring a young woman and a bird, brought $45,000. A 17¼" tall signed Tiffany vase with a red body and ...Read more