LOUIS COMFORT TIFFANY (1848-1933)

"Crystal Candle Holders"

"Crystal Candle Holders"

Height: 7", Crystal 10715

"Trumpet Vase I"

"Trumpet Vase I"

16" x 5 1/8", Glass 20190

"Trumpet Vase II"

"Trumpet Vase II"

14 3/4" x 7 7/8", Glass 20191

Louis Comfort Tiffany (1848-1933)

Louis Comfort Tiffany was born in New York City to the founder of Tiffany & Co. Charles Lewis Tiffany, and wife Harriet Olivia Avery Young. He would become known for his designs of richly colored works of glass in the Art Nouveau style. 

However, in his early life he expressed no interest in the family business and after attending two military schools, focused on his own developing painting talents. He started as a creator of landscapes, still lifes, and genre scenes, working in both oil and watercolor.

He was in New Jersey at this time and studied painting with landscapist George Inness, who gave him much encouragement. Tiffany & Co’s chief designer Edward Moore was fascinated with Eastern/Islamic art, and this caught Tiffany’s eye. This led him to Leon Bally, a specialist in Middle Eastern subjects who lived in Paris. He studied with him for a few years and in 1869 took a trip to Spain and North Africa with artist and friend Samuel Colman, which was apparently quite impactful. This trip was certainly one of the sources of his life-long interest in strong color that can be easily seen in his work. On this trip, Colman encouraged Tiffany to make watercolor sketches for later conversion into paintings. 

 

Throughout the 1870s, he exhibited his paintings widely, and in 1877, became one of the secessionist artists that included John La Farge and Augustus Saint-Gaudens who rebelled against the staid National Academy of Design and formed the Society of American Artists.  By 1875, he had begun to work with stained glass for which he is primarily known, and he developed a method of shaping glass in its molten state, allowing him to create a mosaic effect. 

In 1879 he joined with Candace Wheeler, Samuel Colman, and Lockwood de Forest to form Louis Comfort Tiffany and Associated American Artists. Obviously being well connected because of his family/personal success, it led the group to some opportunities that were extremely unique. In 1881 Tiffany did the interior design of the Mark Twain House in Hartford, Connecticut, which still remains. 

The firm’s most notable work came in 1882 when President Chester Alan Arthur refused to move into the White House until it had been redecorated. He commissioned Tiffany, who had begun to make a name for himself in New York society for the firm's interior design work, to redo the state rooms, which Arthur found charmless. Tiffany worked on the East Room, the Blue Room, the Red Room, the State Dining Room, and the Entrance Hall, refurnishing, repainting in decorative patterns, installing newly designed mantelpieces, changing to wallpaper with dense patterns, and, of course, adding Tiffany glass to gaslight fixtures and windows and adding an opalescent floor-to-ceiling glass screen in the Entrance Hall.The Tiffany screen and other Victorian additions were all removed in the Roosevelt renovations of 1902, which restored the White House interiors to Federal style in keeping with its architecture.

However, he did not completely forsake painting, and in 1886 (on his honeymoon), 1916, and 1917, he traveled West where he visited Yellowstone National Park, which resulted in dramatic landscape paintings.  He also visited the Orient where he focused again on dramatic and exotic aspects of the landscape.

At his home at Oyster Bay, Long Island, he established the Louis Comfort Tiffany Foundation for aspiring young artists and craftsmen. Ultimately, this location became the repository for his art collections.

He won numerous awards including: Gold medal for applied arts, Paris Expo., 1900; gold medal, Panama Pacific Expo., San Francisco, 1915; gold medal, Sesquicentennial Expo., Philadelphia, 1926, and many more.

Throughout his life he married twice, after his first wife died in 1884, and had 8 children. He passed away January 17th, 1933 in New York City.

 

Sources:

Michael David Zellman, 300 Years of American Art

Peter Hassrick, Drawn to Yellowstone

Peter Falk, Who Was Who in American Art

Tiffany, Louis Comfort & de Kay, Charles. The Art Work of Louis C. Tiffany. Doubleday, Page & Co, New York, 1916

 

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