The Stained Glass Lamps and Louis Comfort Tiffany

Posted by Gene Haug on

"Color is to the eye as music is to the ear"*

Louis Comfort Tiffany was born in New York City February 18, 1848 the son of Charles Lewis Tiffany who founded the prestigious New York silver and jewelry firm Tiffany & Co. in 1837 that catered to the wealthy, elite, presidents, and royalty such as Queen Victoria of England.

In 1866 at the age of 18, Louis began to study art under American landscape artist George Inness. In his early years he visited Spain, North Africa, the Middle East and Japan. There he developed an interest in Islamic, Romanesque and Moorish art, and Japanese ceramics. Growing up in such a wealthy family had enabled Tiffany to travel in Europe four times between 1865-1872.

At the age of 24, Tiffany began his first studies in glass and mosaics. Later he experimented with iridescent glass exposing hot glass to a series of fumes and metallic oxides.

Over the years Tiffany Studios would produce many stained glass windows, lamps and glass vessels using his famous "iridescent" glass.

 He began producing stained glass lamps after Thomas Edison suggested the idea during their collaboration on the electric lighting of the first movie  theater, the Lyceum. But it’s also believed that he began making his famous stained glass lamps as a way to use up scrap glass from his window manufacturing business. Embracing the Art Nouveau style at the beginning of the 20th century, he instructed his craftsmen to create elaborate stained glass lamps to fit the new style.

Tiffany Studios sold many of their artistic products inexpensively to reach all economic levels sometimes at the sacrifice of company profit.

By his vision and energy, Louis C. Tiffany succeeded in blending classical motifs with bold new techniques in glassmaking to create a distinctive American art form the stained glass lamp. The demand for Tiffany lamps among today's collectors attests to the lasting value of his work.

He shifted to organic motifs in 1900, when Louis Tiffany introduced the earliest model of the popular Dragonfly stained glass lamp at the Paris Exposition.

The dragonfly motif was designed by Clara Driscoll, Tiffany’s chief designer. Letters and diaries found in 2005 show she was the head of his design team and was paid over $10,000.00 per year in 1910.

Besides his stained glass lamps, Louis Tiffany introduced his style and left his mark in the U.S. by redecorating a number of private homes and public spaces. Mark Twain, Cornelius Vanderbilt and, the presidential White House are listed among Tiffany’s clients.

Louis Tiffany is best known for his Art Nouveau style of free flowing almost sensuous natural forms and designs. His stained glass lamps are prized and treasured both here in America and all over the world.

Tiffany retired in 1918, but he kept a watchful eye on the company. Joseph Nash carried on the business, but his later work, fighting a rearguard action against Art Deco, wasn’t of the same quality. In 1928, Louis C. Tiffany severed all connection with the firm, withdrawing permission to use his name.

The company went bankrupt in 1930.

 Louis Comfort Tiffany died in New York on January 17, 1933.


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