Artists & Designers
Louis Comfort Tiffany (1848-1933)
Born in 1848 to Charles Lewis Tiffany (1812-1902), the founder of the luxury goods firm of Tiffany & Company, and Harriet Aver Young (1817-1897), Louis Comfort Tiffany initially explored a career as a painter, inspired by the work of George Inness (1825-1894), one of his instructors. By 1870, Tiffany's travels with fellow artist Samuel Colman (1832-1920) had taken him to Egypt, Morocco, and other locales throughout Northern Africa. The subsequent series of Orientalist scenes he produced secured his membership in the National Academy of Design and the Society of American Artists, but by 1878 Tiffany's interests shifted to interior design with an extensive reworking of his own apartment at 48 East Twenty-Sixth Street in New York. The lush, Aesthetic interior he created, filled with motifs and décor drawn from Asian, Middle Eastern, and Indian sources, foreshadowed his design work after 1880 with Candace Wheeler (1827-1923), Lockwood de Forest (1850-1932), and Colman joined under the name of "Louis C. Tiffany & Company, Associated Artists."
Through their partnership, a number of Aesthetic style interiors were fashioned for notable clients including Mark Twain, President Chester A. Arthur, H.O. Havemeyer, and Cornelius Vanderbilt. During the 1880s his experimentation with glass for windows flourished and, in 1892, he established his own factory in Corona and organized the Tiffany Glass and Decorating Company. In the following year his much-lauded installation of glass vessels (soon dubbed "Favrile" work, from the Old English word "fabrile," meaning handmade), windows, and a glass mosaic-encrusted chapel at the World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago brought him even greater fame as a master of the medium. In 1902, following his father's death, he became Artistic Director for Tiffany & Co. and changed the name of his own concern to Tiffany Studios. What was once largely an exclusive interior design firm expanded to include the production of a range of products, from glass vessels, bronzes, pottery, enamels, lamps, and other articles which might be conveniently purchased by those unable to secure a large commission from Tiffany.
By 1920, in the face of shifting tastes, Tiffany and his firm were seen as increasingly quaint remnants of another era. He retreated to his Oyster Bay estate to paint and support young artists through his foundation, and increasingly left the operation of the Studios to his employees Arthur Nash and Joseph Briggs. By 1928 Tiffany divorced himself of remaining interests in the company. When he died five years later, his many contributions to interior design were largely ignored; Tiffany Studios had declared bankruptcy the year prior, shutting their doors a few years later.
Kevin Tucker, DMA unpublished material, 2008.