By Adult Programs Manager Sally Meyer
Tiffany Glass: Painting with Color and Light just opened at the MSV. In our preparations for this exhibition, we realized that when we say the name “Tiffany” a wide range of things come to mind. Some think first of the “Tiffany blue” boxes that hold fine jewelry and fancy goods, or Audrey Hepburn with her cigarette holder and black dress. The Tiffany we’re talking about, however, is Louis Comfort Tiffany, the son of the Tiffany & Co. founder, Charles Tiffany.
When Louis Comfort Tiffany was a young man, rather than going to work for his father in the jewelry business right away, he decided to study art. He started out as a painter but became fascinated with glass and the way it created vibrant color out of light. He worked with artisans to develop his methods and ideas, eventually starting his own company that specialized in stained glass creations and interior design. He enlisted artisans to create elaborate windows and lamps for churches, mansions, and public buildings reflecting his personal aesthetic.
Tiffany was working during what is known as the “Gilded Age,” a time when the U.S. population and economy grew rapidly, women began advocating in earnest for the right to vote, and wealthy people lived lavishly. Tiffany’s aesthetic, as part of American art nouveau, fit with this time period perfectly. Art nouveau is characterized by flowing curves and intricate designs based largely on natural forms. Tiffany Studios developed designs uniquely suited to the time period and the artwork that was gaining popularity amongst the country’s elite. Wealthy men and women across the country paid high prices for windows and lamps depicting flowers, plants, insects, landscapes, and geometric patterns. In the exhibition opening soon at the MSV, lamps and windows designed by the women and men in Tiffany’s workshop will light up the gallery with beautiful natural motifs. As you explore the objects on view, you will hopefully get a sense of American art nouveau and the intricate detail that went into creating these items for consumers.
After the death of his father, Louis Comfort Tiffany brought his established aesthetic to jewelry sold at Tiffany & Co. Continually inspired by nature, his jewelry designs included butterflies, his now iconic dragonflies, and floral motifs.1
This weekend—June 7 and 8—Valley jewelry designer Rachel Rogers-Rodgers will be teaching a jewelry workshop where you can get inspired by nature and the stained-glass windows and lamps on view in the exhibition. After a short gallery talk in the exhibition, participants will be able to create their own unique piece of jewelry using cultured freshwater pearls and Czech glass beads. Space is limited and pre-registration is required. Register today so you don’t miss out on this opportunity to create your own little bit of Tiffany to take home.
Photos, top down: Lewis Comfort Tiffany (1848–1933), about 1916; Wisteria Library Lamp, about 1901, Clara Driscoll, designer, Tiffany Studios, New York, The Neustadt Collection of Tiffany Glass, Queens, New York; Dragonfly Hanging Shade, about 1905, Tiffany Studios, New York, The Neustadt Collection of Tiffany Glass, Queens, New York; MSV Art Nouveau Jewelry Making Workshop.
1 A Master of Design: Louis Comfort Tiffany. Tiffany & Co. < https://www.tiffany.com/world-of-tiffany/about-louis-comfort-tiffany/>