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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Innovation on the Rose Kennedy Greenway is Growing 100% OrganicallyBostInno (blog), August 29th
There's also the potential for public art installations and engaging attractions, not unlike the Greenway Carousel at the Tiffany & Co. Foundation Grove we ... Financially, the Garden Under Glass was not adequately supported and the project was nixed...Read more
A Roundup of Design Sales in JuneMaine Antique Digest, August 29th
Christie's offered 309 lots in its 20th-century decorative arts and design sale on June 12, selling 207 lots or about 68%. This Tiffany Studios Wisteria table lamp, property of a Texas collector, led the sale and sold on the phone for $437,000 (est...Read more
MARTA TANKERSLEY HAYS | GazetteCharleston Gazette, August 28th
MARTA TANKERSLEY HAYS | Gazette Treasures from far-away and long ago help make up the eclectic art collection in the estate of the late Frances Yeend and James Benner, who became experienced collectors during decades of world travel. MARTA ... The...Read more
Lifetime of treasures up for auctionCharleston Gazette, August 28th
“Frances had been collecting a pressed glass pattern called Song of Primrose, then we started on lithographs, American lithographs by Currier and Ives.” The collection grew over the years to include a 16th-century oil painting; a signed Tiffany lamp; a...Read more
Morse Museum in Winter Park 2014-15 seasonOrlando Sentinel, August 28th
This exhibition features the restored Daffodil Terrace and more than 200 objects from important rooms at Tiffany's grand country estate on Long Island. The installation presents two dozen leaded-glass windows, as well as lamps, art glass, and...Read more
UPDATE: Is it true Tiffany at Trinity?Delmarva Daily Times, August 15th
Trinity is home to a collection of church windows said to have been created by the famed 19th century artistic genius and glass-maker Louis C. Tiffany . Wright, glass curator at the Chrysler Museum of Art in Norfolk, will speak at a Sept. 19 talk at...Read more
Ten Years of Tiffany Art Coins with Glass InlaysCoin Update News, August 15th
tiffany-art In 2004, Liechtenstein company Coin Invest Trust issued the first coin of its Tiffany Art series and entered completely unknown territory. Until then, no one had even throughout about inserting a glass inlay into coins. The innovative...Read more
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