June 2010 Feature Article
Tiffany Color And Light
Virginia Museum of Fine Arts only U.S. Venue
Lamp, Dragonfly, before 1906
- circa 1920, Clara Driscoll (designer, American, 1861-1944) (attr.
to) for Tiffany Studios (New York, 1902-1932), Leaded glass,
bronze, 28”H x 22”Dia., 71.1 cm x 55.8 cm. Shade unmarked; base
marked Tiffany Studios / New York / 397; Shade: model # 1507 –
Dragonfly, Base: model # 397 – Library standard, 6 lights, cast
stem, large, slide. Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Richmond.
Gift of Sydney and Frances Lewis. Photo: Katherine Wetzel
© Virginia Museum of Fine Arts
and light. Dazzling designs. Windows, wisteria and watercolors.
The most important exhibition in decades of Louis Comfort
Tiffany’s opulent creations in glass will open to the public at
the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts May 29. Richmond is the only
U.S. stop for “Tiffany: Color and Light.”
The exhibition includes some
170 works attributed to Louis Comfort Tiffany, the master of
American glass, and his Tiffany Studios. Hand-blown objects,
leaded glass windows, electric lamps and other decorative items
from Tiffany are featured along with oil paintings and
watercolors created earlier in his career. Fourteen objects come
from the permanent collection of VMFA, which has an
internationally renowned collection in the Sydney and Frances
Lewis collection of Art Nouveau and Art Deco Decorative Arts.
“Our own collection of
Tiffany treasures has earned the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts
the exclusive U.S. venue for the works of this genius of
American Decorative arts,” said Director Alex Nyerges. “This is
only the first of many major international art exhibitions
coming to the newly expanded Virginia Museum of Fine Arts.”
“Tiffany: Color and Light”
was conceived by the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts and organized
in collaboration with VMFA and the Musee du Luxembourg in Paris.
The exhibition began its tour in Paris in September 2009, moved
to Montreal in February and opens in Richmond May 29. The
exhibition will be on view through August 15 in 8,500 sq. ft. of
the special-exhibition space in the new McGlothlin Wing of VMFA.
The exhibition is generously supported by the Fabergé Society
and the Founders of VMFA and sponsored by Altria Group.
Born in 1848, Louis Comfort
Tiffany was the son of Charles Lewis Tiffany, the founder of
Tiffany & Co. jewelers in New York City. A young man of means,
Louis studied drawing in New York and painting in Paris before
he traveled in Europe from 1865 to 1869. He visited Europe again
and traveled in North Africa in 1870-71 honing his painterly
skills. He especially appreciated the vivid colors and glass
mosaics he saw in Egypt and other African nations.
After returning to the U.S.,
Tiffany continued to paint. He became an associate member of the
National Academy of Design, a traditionalist art group, but
later also joined the dissident Society of American Artists. He
would continue this trend of exploring new art styles while
filling the demand for luxury decorations throughout his career.
Possibly as a reaction to
the steel and concrete seen in building construction at the
time, Tiffany began working with glass around 1875. He
appreciated the colors, forms, textures and light in medieval
leaded-glass windows he had seen in European churches. However,
there was little use of glass in contemporary Western art, and
Tiffany had to design many materials he would use.
Tiffany established the
Tiffany Glass Co., which became Tiffany Studios in 1900. Also in
1900, he unveiled Favrile glass, adapting the old French word
for “handmade” as the name of his patented process for making
multi-hued glass that artisans formed into hand-blown glass
objects, leaded glass windows, lampshades and other decorative
At one point, Tiffany
Studios employed more than 300 artisans, many of them women, to
bring Tiffany’s designs and ideas to life.
About the art
The celebrated creations of
Tiffany Studios include leaded-glass table lamps. The lamps
became popular with the advent of electric lighting. Colorful
shades helped to diffuse the artificial light. Many of the
lampshades were made of glass left over from the creation of
leaded-glass windows. They often featured floral designs in
glass and jewels.
The VMFA presence in the
exhibition includes the “Cobweb Table Lamp” fabricated by Clara
Driscoll in 1902. The lamp features leaded glass, bronze and
glass mosaics. Intricate herringbone patterns define the cobwebs
on the lamp’s multi-colored leaded-glass shade.
Among works in the sumptuous
exhibition drawn from major museums throughout the world are
more than 25 leaded-glass windows. “Magnolia” was fabricated in
1900 by Agnes Northrop for the Paris Exposition that year. The
window is part of the permanent collection of the State
Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg, Russia.
“Angel,” designed by
Frederick Wilson in 1904-05, was installed at the American
Presbyterian Church in Montreal. It joined the collection of the
Montreal Museum of Fine Arts in 2008.
The Corning Museum of Glass
in Corning, New York, contributed a “Mounted Vase with
Peacock-Feather Decoration.” The 1898-99 work includes Favrile
glass and rubies, as well as enameling by Eugene Feuillatre and
a silver mount by Edward Colonna. It is one of more than 60
Tiffany vases in the exhibition.
The Tiffany exhibition at
VMFA opens to the public May 29 and continues through August 15.
General admission of $15 includes an audio guide to the
exhibition. Seniors and students ages 7 through 17 with I.D. pay
$12. Admission is free for VMFA members and children up to age
6. Timed tickets may be purchased on line at www.vmva.museum/tickets
or by calling 804-340-1405.
The exhibition’s curators
are Rosalind Pepall, senior curator of decorative arts at the
Montreal Museum of Fine Arts; Alice Cooney Frelinghuysen, the
Anthony W. and Lulu C. Wang Curator of American Decorative Arts
at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York; and Martin
Eidelberg, professor emeritus of art history at Rutgers
University un in New Brunswick, New Jersey.
In May 2010,
VMFA opened its doors to the public after a transformative
expansion, the largest in its 74-year history. Programs include
educational activities and studio classes for all ages, plus fun
after-hours events. VMFA’s Statewide Partnership program
includes traveling exhibitions, artist and teacher workshops,
and lectures across the Commonwealth. The museum is open 10 a.m.
to 5 p.m. seven days a week, with evening hours on Thursdays
until 9 p.m. After July 1, the museum will be open til 9 p.m. on
Fridays as well. General admission is always free.