Louis Comfort Tiffany was fascinated by the play of light and color, in glass he found the medium that would define his work, and turn lamps into art.
Louis Comfort Tiffany’s father was Charles Lewis Tiffany, the founder of Tiffany and Company.
Trained as a traditional artist, Louis worked in oils and watercolors. He called himself a colorist, and it was that play of light and color that drew him to work with glass.
“He really thought of glass as a medium that he could play with light and color in new and unique ways,” said Assistant Professor of Decorative Arts and Material Culture at Winterthur Museum and Gardens, Catharine Dann Roeber, Ph.D.
Tiffany didn’t work alone. He collaborated with a team of chemists, scientists and craftspeople who specialized in glass. Together they worked to push the boundaries of what could be done with glass.
From textures, to the colors themselves, Tiffany worked to redefine what glass could be. A closer look at one of the lamps or the glass windows shows the various thicknesses used to create depth and patterns that create effects like clouds or waves on water.
“When we look at these beautiful wisteria lamps, and the dragonfly lamps and some of the windows we see him playing with depth of color and vividness of color,” Roeber points out.
One part of the exhibit on display at Winterthur is a small sample of the glass used in a raw form.
Theses pieces were stored and used as a ‘paint pallet’ spanning many different colors and textures that could be pulled from to use in the various projects.
“I think people are surprised and delighted by the colors that they’re seeing,” Roeber said.
That would be an understatement. Winterthur went out of its way to get out of the way of the lamps.
The displays are simple. The paint used on the walls is neutral to show off the lamps in all their glory, not distract from them. The colors are brilliant, the patterns and details are amazing and it highlights where Tiffany ‘painted’ with his glass.
As Dr. Roeber explains it, “He was pressing both the visual boundaries and the technological boundaries with glass as an artistic medium.”
Tiffany Glass: Painting with Color and Light can be seen at Winterthur Museum and Gardens now through January 3rd. You can get more information when you visit them on the web.