The History and about Tiffany -

The History of Tiffany

During his life, Louis Comfort Tiffany (1848 – 1933) managed to be a painter, interior designer, collector, world traveller, photographer, manufacturer and avid gardener. Today he is commonly recognized as one of America’s most influential artists, designers and craftsmen of his century. Tiffany clearly influenced local Napier architect, Louis Hay, resulting in the famous grape and fruit motifs used in many of the lead lights in The Master's Lodge.

Louis Comfort Tiffany was the son of Charles Lewis Tiffany, founder of Tiffany & Co., America’s foremost retailer of luxury goods. Although his father had initially hoped that his son would succeed him as head of the company, Louis Comfort Tiffany's early interest was in painting. In the 1860s and 1870s, Louis studied under the American landscape painter George Inness, Tiffany combined the use of light, colour and nature in his work. He received praise for his oils and watercolours, which included scenes from his travels in Europe and North Africa. By 1879, Tiffany had established himself as a serious artist.

In the same year, he also seized up the suggestion of Candace Wheeler that he join with Samuel Colman and Lockwood de Forest to form a firm that would apply aesthetic idealism to the practice of interior design. Impelled by Tiffany's leadership and nascent talent, as well as by his father's money and connections, Louis Comfort Tiffany and Associated American Artists thrived in the fields of interior design and decorative arts. His commissions for Mark Twain, Cornelius Vanderbilt and the White House under President Arthur earned him an international reputation and great success. Stained-glass windows were a feature in these interiors.

Tiffany actually had begun his glass experiments about 1875 to 1878, when he was working at glasshouses in Brooklyn, where his later rival, John La Farge was also working, both being particularly interested in coloured and opalescent glass. In 1880-81, Tiffany began designing glasswork of remarkable beauty. His unique style became a driving force behind the emergent Art Nouveau style, challenging the current Victorian ornate style. Art Nouveau used free-flowing designs based on nature that exemplified the characteristics prevalent in Tiffany’s earlier creations as a landscape painter. The use of light, colour and nature assumed greater significance in Tiffany’s work as he developed his unique approach. Tiffany wanted to elevate decorative arts to the level of fine arts, available to a wide audience.

He incorporated Tiffany Glass Company on December 1, 1885, which later became known as Tiffany Studios. In 1895, his glassware was exhibited in Samuel Bing's Gallery "L'Art Nouveau" in Paris. In 1902, he became art director of his father's legendary company, Tiffany & Co. in New York. He designed for the firm coloured glass table lamps and lampshades, which were made in more than one edition. It was Thomas Edison who urged him to focus on electric light production after their collaboration on the design of the first Moving Picture Theater. Tiffany also designed and produced glass vases, tiles, mosaics and stained-glass-windows.

The pieces he produced between the 1890s and 1918 were magnificent, exotic and of the highest quality. He mass-produced work of superior design with outstanding handcrafted details and he patented various types of glass, amongst them the iridescent glass called "Favrile".  Tiffany functioned as the ultimate authority over more than three hundred workers, designers and artists, glass blowers and gaffers, and artisans of numerous other tasks.

By Tiffany’s death in 1933, the popularity of his decorative works declined with the rise of Art Moderne and Expressionism. For two decades the designs of Louis Comfort Tiffany were forgotten. It was not until the first Tiffany retrospective show in 1958 that museums and collectors rediscovered his objects. Awareness of Tiffany’s craftsmanship escalated with an Art Nouveau show in 1960 at the Museum of Modern Art. Today the designs of Louis Comfort Tiffany are honoured and treasured around the world, confirming Tiffany’s legacy as a visionary of Art Nouveau design.

Louis Comfort Tiffany
           Louis Comfort Tiffany