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.

About our sources | Got something to add?

▼ Expand to read the full article ▼

Best of the Web (“Hall of Fame”)

Neustadt Tiffany Collection

Neustadt Tiffany Collection

This stunning gallery of 138 Tiffany lamps and lampshades, part of the Dr. Egon Neustadt Collection presented by th… [read review or visit site]

Modernism

Modernism

This archived overview produced by the Minneapolis Institute of Arts offers thumbnail sketches of the design moveme… [read review or visit site]

Loetz.com

Loetz.com

This fabulous site is a guide to Bohemian art glass makers from 1885 to 1920. Loetz was the premier Bohemian glass … [read review or visit site]

Cloud Glass Reference Site

Cloud Glass Reference Site

Chris and Val Stewart’s impressive attempt to create a complete catalogue of all known cloud glass, a decorative … [read review or visit site]

Antique Glass Salt and Sugar Shaker Club

Antique Glass Salt and Sugar Shaker Club

The heart of this website, home of the Antique Glass Salt and Sugar Shaker Club, is the Identification Project, whe… [read review or visit site]



Clubs & Associations

Discussion Forums

Other Great Reference Sites

Most watched eBay auctions    

1918 Louis Comfort Tiffany Favrile Gold Aurene Trumpet Vase - Fully Signed 1916 Louis Comfort Tiffany Favrile Gold Aurene Table Vase - Fully Signed Stunning Tiffany Studios New York Large Bronze Zodiac Desk Set Ink Well #1072 NrStunning ~tiffany Studios~ New York~ Bronze Venetian~ Desk Set Pen Tray #1642 NrTiffany & Co. Unused Sterling Silver 925 Spoon & Heart Spoon 2 Set 6h090250nLouis C. Tiffany Favrile Cordial - 5.5" Tall - Signed Tiffany & Co Art Glass Crystal Cobalt Blue Heart Paperweight Signed Elsa PerettBeautiful, Tiffany & Co., "holiday" Vase, With BoxLouis C. Tiffany Favrile Salt Cellar - 4" Diameter - Signed And NumberedLouis C. Tiffany Favrile Butter Pat - 4.25" Diameter - Signed And NumberedTiffany & Co. Crystal Spiral Ribbed Vase 10 1/4" Inches Tall With BoxNib Tiffany & Co. Crystal VaseTiffany & Co Crystal 12" PlateTiffany & Co. Crystal Pair Of Rock Cut Votive Candle HoldersNib Tiffany & Co. Signed Basket Weave Bamboo Crystal Glass Bowl 6 1/4" X 3 1/2"Tiffany (l.c.t.) Amber Green With Glass Grape Leaf Design Wine Stem 5.5"Gorgeous Crystal 6" Tiffany & Co. Frank Lloyd Wright CandlesticksTiffany & Co. 1776 By Seagram Crystal Whiskey Decanter - EmptyTiffany & Co. Glass Crystal Bowl Apples Designed Signed Fruit Apple Art GlassVintage Tiffany & Co. Small Porcelain Flower Vase Pot, 2-1/2" Tall, EucAntique C.1900 Tiffany New York Studio Bronze Candlestick BaseTiffany & Co. Crystal Spiral Vase 8 1/2" Inches Tall With TagTiffany & Co Crystal Rose Bowl (mint)Tiffany & Co. Atlas Glass VaseTiffany Ornament Tiffany & Co. Crystal Group Of Three Votive Candle HoldersSotheby 12/15/12 Tiffany Masterworks Lamps & Desk Sets $ Art Glass VasesMarked Tiffany & Co - Germany - Lead Crystal Glass Vase - Embossed FlowersAuthentic Tiffany & Co. Rock Cut Clear Crystal Glass 9 Inch Large Serving BowlTiffany's Crystal Bowl Clear Tiffany Scallop Shell Paperweight Paper WeightTiffany & Co Blue BoxPair Of Euc Tiffany & Co Tiffany Garland Porcelain Holiday Candlesticks No ChipsTiffany & Co. Signed 8" Crystal Dolphin Bowl, Discontinued Pattern