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 York Daily News, January 25th

The show, adapted faithfully by Jack Thorne, marks a collaboration between director John Tiffany and movement specialist Steven Hoggett. They've teamed up before for ... They recently did the Broadway revival of “The Glass Menagerie.” Like the...Read more

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Lynchburg News and Advance, January 24th

In addition to her parents, Sadie is survived by her sister, Peyton G. Agnor; grandparents, Joey and Penny Agnor of Amherst and Karen and Commodore Spicer of Appomattox; three uncles, Ryan Agnor and Caitlyn, Nathan Spicer and Christine all of Amherst...Read more

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Wall Street Journal, January 23rd

Decades before the theater director John Tiffany and choreographer Steven Hoggett created internationally acclaimed productions of “Once,” “Black Watch” and “The Glass Menagerie,” they met as 14-year-old choirboys in Huddersfield, England. The longtime...Read more

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Allergic Living, January 22nd

Art is a huge part of Tiffany Glass Ferreira's life. An art teacher by training, she used to teach the subject in public schools and today gives classes at a museum, and has a small business making art on shrinkable plastic. So naturally when this...Read more

John Tiffany-Helmed LET THE RIGHT ONE IN Makes American Debut at St ...
Broadway World, January 19th

After Black Watch, Tiffany and Hoggett went on to create together the Broadway hits The Glass Menagerie and Once (with writer and frequent St. Ann's artist, Enda Walsh), as well as several successful Broadway and opera productions individually...Read more

Travel Tips for Orlando History: 7 Places to Visit for History Buffs on Vacation
Newsmax.com, January 18th

Museum of American Art: According to the website, the museum contains the "world's most comprehensive collection of works by Louis Comfort Tiffany (1848–1933), including the artist and designer's jewelry, pottery, paintings, art glass, leaded-glass...Read more

Theater Listings for Jan. 16-22
New York Times, January 15th

A hit in London, this tale of supernatural teenage love from the National Theater of Scotland is directed by John Tiffany, with associate direction and movement direction by Steven Hoggett. ... 'A Delicate Balance' Though embodied by the stellar likes...Read more

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ArtfixDaily, January 11th

The auction featured more than 125 paintings by American and European artists from the 17th to the 20th century (plus several Old Masters), sterling silver, 25 pieces of Tiffany Favrile art glass, lamps and lighting, a huge selection of estate jewelry...Read more