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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The Design Sales of DecemberMaine Antique Digest, March 27th
Sotheby's sale titled Tiffany: Dreaming in Glass was marketed to contemporary art collectors and promoted with a vanity catalog. In addition, a dinner for potential buyers was held at the Upper East Side auction house. The 40-lot sale, described as...Read more
Alexander M. Haig Collection to feature at Kaminski Auctions Unreserved April ...Benzinga, March 26th
On April 12th Kaminski Auctions' presents an Unreserved Estate Auction that includes an outstanding selection of antiques and fine art. Offerings range from a large collection of Asian bronze buddhas to an extensive collection of Lalique ... Other...Read more
Palma's New Sant Francesc Hotel, La Perla Menswear, a Murano Glass Pop-Up ...Wall Street Journal, March 26th
The international art gallery Hauser & Wirth's Somerset outpost is hosting an “Architecture Season,” which includes Chilean architect Smiljan Radi?'s space-age pavilion, first unveiled at London's Serpentine Gallery last summer. ... THE CRAFT // A...Read more
Where Every Day It's 1893Tufts Now, March 26th
And when darkness fell, the White City, as the fair became known, glimmered brilliantly against the night sky, as the Beaux Arts buildings and boulevards were illuminated by the first wide-scale outdoor use of electricity. Engineer George Ferris...Read more
Art: Collective artists examine rheir 'Gods and Monsters'The Sentinel, March 26th
Yet, in this show, Metropolis Collective has expanded, bringing in new artists whose art hangs alongside local favorites in a show about the good, the bad, our fears and hopes, our personal “Gods and Monsters.” From Hieronymus Bosch to Francisco Goya...Read more
3 Idyllic Greek Isles That Most Tourists MissCondé Nast Traveler, March 24th
Truman Capote, having just finished Breakfast at Tiffany's, spent the summer of 1958 on Paros. Throughout his long stay in Parikia, he worked on the text for Richard Avedon's Observations, the photographer's first book of portraits, and read Proust and ...Read more
Things for free or under $5 in Orlando, Orange CountyOrlando Sentinel, March 24th
The Morse Museum of American Art: ($5 adults, $4 seniors, $1 students, children younger than 12 free) This museum houses a collection of pottery, jewelry, paintings and art glass by designer Louis Comfort Tiffany. From November through April, the...Read more
Tiffany Studios Moorish-style hall lantern lights up the room for 133 100 at ...News-Antique.com (press release), March 7th
18 kt yellow gold, diamond and gemstone bracelet, 7 ¼ inches long, with 21 bezel set large carved green gemstone center mounts bordered by over 400 pave set diamonds, reached $38,720; while a large, 13-inch Tiffany Favrile iridescent art glass globe in ...Read more