West Palm Beach, Florida
Tiffany and Art Nouveau from the Segel Collection
The Norton Museum of Art is presenting "Tiffany and Art Nouveau from the Segel Collection" November 7, 1998 - January 7, 1999 in conjunction with the exhibition Alphonse Mucha: The Spirit of Art Nouveau. This rare view of the private collection of Floyd and Dorothy Segel features the work of Mucha's European and American contemporaries, including Louis Comfort Tiffany, Emil Galle and Louis Majorelle. Graphic works by Privat Livremont and Paul Berthon are also on view.
Among the highlights of this collection are exquisite lamps produced by Tiffany studios. The Dragonfly Lamp, the Wisteria Lamp and the Peacock Lamp are particularly fine examples of the genre. The Cherry Blossom Lamp (sometimes called the Apple Blossom Lamp), c. 1906, is another of Tiffany's most famous lamps. As with most Art Nouveau, the inspiration for this lamp is a natural form, which the artist has stylized so as to be appropriate to his needs. The form of the lamp roughly approximates to that of a cherry tree, but it has been manipulated to accommodate light bulbs and to acquire the quintessential Tiffany stained glass effect. Similar use of natural forms can be seen throughout the Segel collection, and in particular on legs and backs of chairs and other pieces of furniture.
The Segel collection is also very strong in Art Nouveau glass, with major examples by Tiffany, Galle and Loetz. Emil Galle's Cameo Vase demonstrates the artist's pioneering approach to glass, which he, like the Japanese, liked to think of as semi-precious stone. Galle had over a hundred metal oxides at his disposal (metal oxides, when added to clear glass, are what give color), and developed a method of utilizing several different colors in any one piece by making the basic form of a vase out of layers (or "gathers") of differently colored glass. In this way, when the surface of the glass was etched away to form a design, a different color would shine through.
Examples of Louis Comfort Tiffany's art glass also bear comparison with Galle's work. Where the Cameo Vase shows intricate post-production detail in the etched designs (completed after the basic shape of the glass was made and cooled), Tiffany's work relies for shape, color and design on the glass blower's skill when the hot material is still being worked. To create the impression of a peacock's feather in a still red-hot and viscous piece of glass requires extreme skill and technical knowledge.
Perhaps most importantly however, many people will also get their first taste of Art Nouveau furniture from the Segel collection, which includes rare examples of art nouveau inlaid furniture. Indeed, it was in the French town of Nancy that Art Nouveau took root in the decorative arts after 1884, with the furniture made by Emil Galle. By the late 1890s, the factory of Louis Majorelle in Nancy was also dedicated to producing fine Art Nouveau furniture. Examples of the products of both of these important houses can be enjoyed in this exhibition.
The largest piece of furniture in the Segel collection is Majorelle's Inlaid Vitrine, c. 1900. Like all Art Nouveau furniture, it was designed to be at the same time both elegant and functional. The "lightness" of its conception belies the strength and weight of its construction. Majorelle (unlike Galle, who used natural forms wherever he could) believed that nature should be the inspiration of such work, but that reverence should be paid to styles of the past. Here, his modernity can be seen in the delicately repeating inlaid forms which are inspired by fields of flowers; yet the overall shape of the piece is fairly traditional.
Floyd and Dorothy Segel have demonstrated their unique
tastes when building their broad collection. While Floyd has concentrated
on Tiffany, furniture, and some of the perhaps better known art nouveau
artists, it is Dorothy who is the guiding force behind the purchases of
small pieces of pate de verre by artists such as Almaric Walter and
G. Argy Rousseau. Floyd Segel served as President of the Board of Trustees
at the Norton from 1993-1997, during which time the museum achieved its
goals of expansion, opening the new building, and completing the $30 million
From top to bottom: Paul Berthon, Woman with Iris, 1899, color lithograph, 35 3/8 x 25 1/2 inches; Louis Comfort Tiffany, Cherry Blossom Lamp, c. 1906, (sometimes known as Apple Blossom Lamp), Tiffany Studios, 28 x 18 inches; Emile Galle, Cameo Vase, glass, 9 x 2 3/8 inches; Louis Comfort Tiffany, Favrille Glass Peacock Feather Vase, Tiffany Studios, c. 1899, 13 3/4 x 4 1/2 inches; Louis Majorelle, Inlaid Vitrine, 82 x 65 1/2 x 17 inches.
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