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The Art of Tiffany

 

For over 160 years, the name Tiffany has been associated with beautiful objects of unsurpassed quality. Whether it is the silver and jewelry created by Tiffany & Co. or a lamp designed by Louis Comfort Tiffany, the name Tiffany is recognized internationally as a trademark for beauty and elegance.

To celebrate the incredible legacy of the Tiffany name, Macon's Museum of Arts and Sciences presents The Art of Tiffany from November 9, 2001 through February 3, 2002. This extraordinary exhibition showcases one of the largest private collections of Tiffany lamps as well as a spectacular private collection of Tiffany silver.

The Lamps of Tiffany is an exquisite collection from the Neustadt Museum of Tiffany Art in New York City. Featuring 43 lamps and two leaded-glass windows, the exhibit represents one of the most notable collections of Tiffany lamps in the world. While other museums own Tiffany items, Egon and Hildegard Neustadt focused on collecting the famous Tiffany lamps, amassing one of the finest collections in existence.

The famed lamps are the creation of Louis Comfort Tiffany (1848-1933), one of the most celebrated American decorative arts designers of the late 19th century and early 20th century. Son of Charles Lewis Tiffany, the founder of the prestigious silver and jewelry firm, Tiffany & Co., Louis Tiffany decided to embark on a career as an artist instead of joining the family business. He established his reputation as a painter in the 1860s and 1870s with oil and landscape paintings that included scenes from his travels in Europe and North America. By the 1880s, however, Tiffany turned his attention to interior design and the decorative arts. (Left: Blue Peacock Table Lamp, ca. 1900-1910, Leaded glass, blown glass, patinated bronze, H 27 1/2", Diam. 18")

Receiving commissions from such clients as President Chester Arthur, Mark Twain and Cornelius Vanderbilt, Tiffany built an impressive reputation as an interior designer and enjoyed much success. When decorating these interiors, one of the prominent decorative elements employed by Tiffany was glass, especially stained-glass windows. His love for glass overtook his decorating desires, and he established his own glassmaking workshop in Corona, New York.

Although he created many decorative objects with glass, Tiffany is best known for his stunning, colorful lamps that incorporate elements of nature. A by-product of his windows, Tiffany created lamps so that more people could enjoy the beauty of glass and elements of nature, such as flowers in bloom all year long, in their own homes.

The Lamps of Tiffany exhibition at the Museum of Arts and Sciences will feature several specialized groups of lamps that demonstrate the breadth of this art form. These include favrile glass, geometric designs and naturalistic designs. Favrile glass was patented by Louis Comfort Tiffany in 1880. By exposing hot glass to metallic vapors, Tiffany was able to create vibrant colors that imitated the colorful iridescence of antique glass. The geometric group uses standard geometric shapes made from poured glass that is cut and joined with lead or solder, forming a variety of shade shapes. Naturalistic designs are made in the same manner, but highlight flowers and insects as seen in the Wisteria Table Lamp, Pond Lily Table Lamp and the Dragonfly Table Lamp.

Louis Comfort Tiffany's work was rooted in the British Arts and Crafts Movement which focused on the quality of hand-crafted objects. While based on the Arts and Crafts Movement, Tiffany is considered an American master of the Art Nouveau Movement. With nature as his inspiration, Tiffany integrated delicate, elegant designs with the curved lines of the Art Nouveau style into his lamps as well as other decorative art pieces. Throughout his career, which spanned five decades and ten artistic disciplines, Louis Tiffany's greatest pursuit was beauty. By creating and designing beautiful objects, Tiffany's ambition was to elevate the decorative arts to the same level of prominence as the fine arts. This remarkable collection of Tiffany lamps from the Neustadt Museum magnificently illustrates both Tiffany's artistic legacy and the high regard that museums, collectors, and dealers have for the decorative arts. (Left: Wisteria Table Lamp, ca., 1900-1910, Leaded glass, patinated bronze, H. 26 1/2", Diam. 18")

Complementing the lamps of Tiffany is Quiet Elegance, a fabulous exhibit of Tiffany silver. Drawn from the private collection of William P. Hood, Jr., M.D., a Dothan, Alabama cardiologist and former professor at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, the exhibit features an impressive array of 19th century silver flatware in display and table setting designs.

The silver was produced by Tiffany & Co. from 1845 to 1905. Founded by Charles Lewis Tiffany (1812-1902) in 1837 as a stationery and fancy goods shop, Tiffany & Co. sold $4.98 worth of merchandise on their first day. Today, the company is recognized throughout the world for its splendid jewelry and silver. The firm began producing silver items in the 1840s, but by the late 1870s it had earned a reputation as the premier manufacturer of silverware in New York City.

In the past ten years, Dr. Hood has amassed a collection of 400 pieces of silver, which include some of the most unusual and ornate works produced by Tiffany & Co. Accompanying his wonderful collection, is his book Tiffany Silver Flatware, 1845-1905, When Dining Was an Art. The book details the history of Tiffany silverware and documents the impact the production of silver had on the art of formal dining during 19th century America.

 

Read more articles and essays concerning this institutional source by visiting the sub-index page for the Museum of Arts and Sciences, Macon in Resource Library.

For further biographical information please see America's Distinguished Artists, a national registry of historic artists.


This page was originally published in Resource Library Magazine. Please see Resource Library's Overview section for more information. rev. 5/28/11

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