Tiffany Lamps | Louis Comfort Tiffany

Tiffany Lamps - Articles of Utility, Objects of Art

Tiffany Peacock Library Lamp
Tiffany Peacock Library Lamp. Circa 1905. Photo: The Neustadt Collection of Tiffany Glass, New York City
 

One of the America’s most celebrated artists and designers, Louis Comfort Tiffany was an established tastemaker in the late 19th century. He catered to the wealthiest patrons, including both friends and family of George and Edith Vanderbilt. Though also noted for his skills in painting, decorative arts, silver and interior design, it was Tiffany’s experimentation with stained glass that brought him lasting fame.

 

Tiffany Pond Lily Library Lamp. Circa 1906. Photo: The Neustadt Collection of Tiffany Glass, New York City.

 

Biltmore will be the site of the July 1 opening of “Tiffany at Biltmore,” an exhibition of 45 stained glass lamps created by Louis Comfort Tiffany (1848-1933) and The Tiffany Studios. The exhibition will fill The Biltmore Legacy exhibition hall in Antler Hill Village through Oct. 23.

 
The exhibition, known as “Tiffany Lamps: Articles of Utility, Objects of Art,” comes to Biltmore from The Neustadt Collection of Tiffany Glass in New York City. It is an in-depth look at Tiffany’s efforts to produce lamps that balance artistry with utility and profitability. It features 45 stunning lamps in an array of colors, sizes and decorative styles, and includes tools, materials and period photographs to demonstrate how the lamps were made.
 
Tiffany Turtleback Electrolier
Tiffany Turtleback Electrolier. Circa 1905. Photo: The Neustadt Collection of Tiffany Glass, New York City
 

“We are delighted to host such an inspiring collection of artistic glass created by America’s most admired stained glass artist,” said Ellen Rickman, director of Biltmore’s Museum and Guest Services. “These iconic lamps were the outcome of Louis Comfort Tiffany’s idea that art and usefulness could coexist.”

 
Tiffany Poppy Reading Lamp
Tiffany Poppy Reading Lamp. Circa 1905. Photo: The Neustadt Collection of Tiffany Glass, New York City
 

Tiffany and fellow artist John La Farge revolutionized the stained glass medium by incorporating three-dimensional design elements into their works. George Vanderbilt’s, father William H. Vanderbilt, commissioned LaFarge to create several stained-glass windows for his home on Fifth Avenue in New York City in 1879. Three of these extraordinary windows will be featured in the exhibition alongside Tiffany’s creations.

 
Tiffany Ninth Century desk lamp
Tiffany Ninth Century, desk lamp. Circa 1910. Photo: The Neustadt Collection of Tiffany Glass, New York City
 

Tiffany-inspired designs and events will spring up across the estate during the exhibition. Plans include special landscape touches with flower bed designs inspired by Tiffany’s use of botanicals in the Walled Garden and Antler Hill Village; floral displays throughout Biltmore House, featuring the transformation of the Winter Garden fountain into a “growing” Tiffany-style lamp; and a specially produced wine by Biltmore Winery.

 
Tiffany Dragonfly
Tiffany Dragonfly, hanging shade. Circa 1905. Photo: The Neustadt Collection of Tiffany Glass, New York City
 

The Tiffany exhibition will be included in daily admission to Biltmore. For more information, please visit www.biltmore.com.

 

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Museum Maven With A Mission Organizer Of Easton's `Adventures Of The Molly Polly Chunker' Focuses On Children.

June 17, 1999|by FRANK WHELAN, The Morning Call

Maureen Lloyd-Kirby, the new curator of education and exhibits for Easton's National Canal Museum, loves a challenge.

So the goal of making the downtown Easton museum interesting to both adults and the many children who visit the Binney and Smith Crayola Factory in the same building had a particular appeal for her.

"I have a mission," says the 47-year-old Philadelphia native, former pediatric nurse and mother of two whose last job was with that city's Please Touch Museum, an interactive space for children. "I bring a vision of a fundamental belief in the ability of museums to change lives, particularly for children. I am pretty evangelical about this."

Working with the Canal Museum staff and TriColor Graphics Plus of Easton, Lloyd-Kirby has created her first exhibit, "The Perilous and Thrilling Adventures of the Molly Polly Chunker," on display through Jan. 4.

The exhibit is based on a trip on the Delaware and Lehigh canals between Bristol, Bucks County, and Mauch Chunk (now Jim Thorpe), Carbon County, from June 15 to June 29, 1886, made by wealthy New York socialites led by pioneer stained-glass maker and artist/businessman Louis Comfort Tiffany. The exhibit's name comes from the "Molly Polly Chunker," the fanciful canal boat on which the well-heeled group traveled. The Canal Museum has in its files copies of the photographs taken on that canal boat voyage.

Lloyd-Kirby's display is composed not only of photographs on the wall. A partial reconstruction of the Molly Polly Chunker and a small replica of a canal lock-tender's house has been built in the museum's exhibit space. Lloyd-Kirby plans to have National Canal museum staff members role-playing as a lock tender and his daughter. She's also thinking about adding live baby goats for the scene.

Lloyd-Kirby says there is an educational purpose behind this exhibit. "I guess because I am a Quaker, I think service is a very important part of what museums do," she says. "I know as a child I learned some important things in a museum, things I could not have learned any other way. I think museums can cut across social lines." Lloyd-Kirby wants the young museum visitor to feel, "they have a right to be here."

The idea for the Molly Polly Chunker came to Lloyd-Kirby when she was going over exhibit ideas with Canal Museum historian Lance Metz. "As Lance was explaining it to me, I was thinking of all the truly unique things you could do with the Molly Polly Chunker," she says. "And having his help doing research made it a lot easier than it might have been otherwise."

One of the things about the Molly Polly Chunker that interested Lloyd-Kirby is its reflection of a slice of late 19th-century American life. After reading through the fanciful account of the voyage by one of its participants, she was struck by certain things.

She noticed that the African-American servants who were on the trip and working-class canal boat inhabitants along the route were depicted as cultural stereotypyes rather than individuals. "It was a time of great social and racial differences in America," she says. "That racism and social bias are apparent in the log."

"They also reflected the start of another national trend," says Lloyd-Kirby. "The idea of taking vacations was a new one for most of the population." That the voyagers also used cameras to record their trip made the Molly Polly Chunker folks pioneers of the millions of shutter-bugs who would follow them.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

The voyage of the Molly Polly Chunker was apparently rooted in the concern of Charles L. Tiffany, founder of New York's Tiffany & Co. and its famous jewelry store, for his son Louis.

In 1886, Louis Comfort Tiffany was already a well-known artist and designer. The year before he had finished a large glass screen as a part of a redecoration of the East Room of the White House for fellow New Yorker, President Chester A. Arthur.

According to Robert Koch in his 1966 biography "Louis C. Tiffany: Rebel in Glass" (Crown Publishers), the death of his wife Mary in 1884 after a long battle with tuberculous hit the artist hard. "They had been a devoted couple, sharing their innermost thoughts and dreams, and Tiffany never again found anyone in whom he could have such absolute confidence," writes Koch.

In reaction, Tiffany took up the life of a Broadway man-about-town with his friends, bon vivant and high society architect Stanford White and theatrical promoter Steele MacKaye. He used his savings from his stained-glass business to pay for decorating MacKaye's new theater, The Lyceum, the first theater completely illuminated by electric light. Tiffany's decorating was a hit, but the play, "Dakolar," written by MacKaye, closed after two months. The artist lost all the money he had invested.



Louis Comfort Tiffany: Artist for the Ages
 
Louis Comfort Tiffany (1848-1933) is the first American artist to achieve iconic status through the creation of decorative arts objects. Although trained as a painter, Tiffany focused his genius on the applied arts; and his signature style, instantly recognizable in his stained glass windows, lampshades, and iridescent glass vases, synthesized and transcended the European avant-garde movements of the late 19th century.
 
Tiffany was able to distill and meld aspects from the major currents shaping the art of Europe. He combined the Aesthetic Movement's pursuit of pure beauty, the Gothic Revival's dedication to medieval art, the Arts and Crafts Movement's reverence for the handmade object, Art Nouveau's embrace of nature, and the popular fascination with all things Japanese inspired by newly established trade relationships with Japan. He was a major force in bridging the traditional divide between art and craft.
 
Well educated and well traveled, with the advantage of connections to Tiffany & Co., his father's important silver and jewelry company, Louis Comfort Tiffany witnessed a resurgent interest in decorative arts while still a young man. By 1879 he was decorating the homes of the rich and famous; and glass-windows, mosaics, and lighting fixtures-was a prominent element in his sumptuous interiors.
 
From the 1880s to the 1920s, Tiffany's various companies produced a wide range of offerings, from furniture to textiles, enamels, metalwork, art pottery, and jewelry. Objects of his design are remarkable in their diversity, impressive in their originality, often radical in technique, but most of all surpassingly beautiful in their jewel-like colors and shimmering light. On view here are more than 135 artworks arranged according to several important themes in Tiffany's work (nature, Eastern cultures, antiquity, and abstraction).
 
Although Tiffany's fame usually is associated with stained-glass windows and lampshades, and to a lesser degree iridescent glass vessels, these masterworks are best understood and appreciated when viewed along with his work in other media. Louis Comfort Tiffany: Artist for the Ages explores the full range of Tiffany's production, revealing his unified vision and lifelong pursuit of a utopian world of beauty.
 
 
Nature Is Always Beautiful
 
Tiffany adopted as his motto the simple adage, "Nature is always beautiful." He confronted the natural world directly, in all its aspects. This was a lesson learned by countless European and American artists fascinated by the Japanese prints, porcelains, lacquerware, and metalwork flooding the European market in the 1860s and 1870s, as a result of newly opened trade between Japan and the West.
 
As an avid naturalist, Tiffany delighted in the discoveries of marine biology. He was entranced by botany, too; flowers and plants, both common and exotic, abound in his work, as do the ripe fruits that symbolize abundance. When he turned his attention to the animal kingdom, he was drawn to winged creatures -- birds and insects -- that occupy the zone between earth and sky. The tantalizing iridescence of their wings and feathers was a quality that he emulated in his glass. Finally, Tiffany's fascination with the art of ancient cultures and geological events inspired stunning objects whose surfaces imitate the luster of semiprecious stones and volcanic magma.
 
 
Light Comes from the East
 
In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, Europeans and Americans were fascinated with the exoticism and opulence of Eastern cultures (a phenomenon known as Orientalism). Tiffany was no exception. Never a slavish imitator, Tiffany used Asian motifs as a starting point for the formation of a personal design vocabulary.
 
His interest in Japanese art influenced his approach to nature as well as his choice of ornament. He borrowed and reinterpreted shapes, patterns, and techniques from Chinese ceramics. He adopted the art of glass mosaic that he had seen in Byzantine churches. He used the forms of Arab ornament in his early interiors and absorbed the richness of pattern and color harmonies that he had discovered in his travels in North Africa. Tiffany traveled extensively throughout the Middle East, and he asked his friend and associate Lockwood de Forest to bring back examples of intricately wrought jewelry, furniture, and decorative woodwork from his travels to India in 1881.
 
 
Time is the Measure of All Things: From the Past
 
History was the dominant fascination of the 19th century. The romance of archaeology, which brought to light evidence of the ancient past in all its immediacy and complexity, captivated the public and especially Tiffany. The antiquities of Egypt proved endlessly fascinating and inspired many adaptations in his work.
 
Excavations unearthed examples of ancient glass from Egypt (particularly Tel El Amarna) and from the Roman world. Tiffany studied these surviving vessels and admired the traces left by time on their surfaces. Their exquisite iridescence was the random result of contact with minerals in the soil, an effect Tiffany reproduced through his own innovations. His iridescent glass caused a sensation in the art world and was widely imitated.
 
 
Time Is the Measure of All Things: Toward the Future
 
Despite his delight in exoticism, penchant for ornament, and disdain of much in modern art, Tiffany was himself in some ways a modernist. Tiffany's work seems to reflect aesthetic precedents of modern trends in two ways. First, his delight in accidental and random effects, such as pinched forms, vibrant stripes, random dots, and vivid splashes of color in glass, were radical departures from traditional glassmaking. These effects were part of Tiffany's effort to explore the full potential of his medium.
 
Second, he embraced functionalism in several forward-looking designs. Functionalism and mass production are characteristic of a rational strain of modernism. Despite the choice of the term "Favrile," which implied that his glass was handcrafted, Tiffany was neither nostalgic for the past nor averse to using the means of modern industry. His companies manufactured versatile pieces that could be assembled in various ways-he recognized the economy of using interchangeable components.
 
 
Tiffany's Legacy
 
Unprepared to abandon the aesthetic principles of a lifetime, Tiffany, who despised modernist art that openly challenged academic tradition, found himself out of step with the post World War I world. Iridescent vases and flowery glass lamp shades were by then considered remnants of a fussy prewar world that was recalled with contempt and seemed eons away from the streamlined modernity that beckoned. By the time of his death in 1933, Louis Comfort Tiffany was nearly forgotten.
 
Paradoxically, it would be two pioneers of modernism who, after World War II, would look with fresh eyes at the work of Tiffany and recognize in his achievement something that resonated with their own concerns -- Edgar Kaufmann, Jr., a scholar and a founder of The Museum of Modern Art, and decorator Edward Wormly. The general public soon responded as well, making the name of Tiffany as renowned as the names of such well-loved artists as Renoir or Monet. Tiffany's work began to be collected by The Museum of Modern Art and the Metropolitan Museum of Art. In the 21st century, his greatness is again beyond dispute.






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