This spring, the Figge's third floor gallery will be ablaze with the jewel-like colors and iridescent surfaces of Tiffany glass. Drawn from the collection of the Richard H. Driehaus Museum in Chicago, the exhibition features 62 exemplary works created by Tiffany's studios. From small blown glass vases to breathtaking stained-glass windows and a spectacular selection of lamps, the exhibition demonstrates the craftsmanship and inventiveness of Tiffany Artisans.
The Driehaus Collection will find a kindred spirit in the Figge's galleries: the River of Life window from the mausoleum of Frederick C.A. Denkmann (1822-1905). Stolen in the 1970s from family mausoleum in the Chippiannock Cemetery in Rock Island, the River of Life was recovered by the FBI in 1997, and is now on long-term loan to the Figge.
Tiffany's father, Charles Lewis Tiffany, undoubtedly influenced his son's eye for decoration and design. Begun in 1837, the father's successful fancy goods and jewelry business, which later became Tiffany & Co., imported and sold an exotic mix of the finest porcelain, textiles, glass and brassware. With his father's support, the well-educated and well-traveled Tiffany was an accomplished painter by the age of 20. By the 1870s, his artistic process led to Louis C. Tiffany and Associated Artists - the first of several ventures that produced innovations in glassmaking for which he would become famous.
The word "Favrile," coined by Tiffany to describe the multi-colored, iridescent glass he invented, can be found in River of Life In an 1899 brochure, Tiffany Studios described the achievement: "Its artistic suggestiveness, and the readiness with which it combines with itself: color with color and glass over glass, has led to the production of vases, lamps, bowls, and many other articles on purely original lines, and each one marked by a strong individuality."
When Denkmann mausoleum was constructed in 1905, Louis Comfort Tiffany was as the height of his career. The work of Tiffany Studios was receiving prestigious medals at international expositions. The demand for Tiffany's windows was so great that the company published a series of catalogues offering a multitude of designs. Among them was Tiffany Windows, a guidebook for potential customers wishing to see Tiffany's windows in person. It included more than 1,100 windows located around the world. In addition to the Denkmann mausoleum and window, the catalogue lists eccelesiastical examples in Iowa City, Cedar Rapids and Peoria.
Tiffany's rise conincided with the emergence of the Aesthetic Movement in America. The phenomenon of Aestheticism considered "beauty" as a social and artistic force. The movement's embrace of the decorative arts opened the doors to artists and craftsmen like Tiffany, who believed in enhancing the lives of their clients with beautifully designed rooms and funishings. Although no one recognizable style typified the Aesthetic Movement, Tiffany's work showed a preference for forms drawn from nature and the influence of art and design from Asia and North Africa.
All this and more will be evident in Louis Comfort Tiffany: Treasures from the Driehaus Collection. The exhibition surveys the artistry, industry and craftsmanship found in the collection of distinguished Chicago collector Richard H. Driehaus.
Louis Comfort Tiffany
Louis Comfort Tiffany was born in New York City on February 18, 1848, and began his career as a painter, studying at the National Academy of Design in New York City. He expanded his repertoire through his work as an interior designer, and began working at a glassworks in Brooklyn, where he developed some of his signature methods of making glass and experimented with new glass forms and techniques. In 1894, he patented the poetic term “Favrile,” from the Latin word fabrilis, meaning handmade, to describe the iridescent blown art glass he began producing. In late 1897, Tiffany built his own glass furnace in Corona, Queens, New York, which produced Favrile and other unique varieties of glass for use in ecclesiastical and secular stained glass windows, lamps, vases, mosaics, and accessories.
While the magnificence and exceptional quality of Tiffany glass made this medium the most significant of his career, he continued to innovate, expanding his operations into enamels, pottery, and jewelry. Despite the enormous success he experienced in his many interrelated businesses over his long career, Tiffany’s work went out of vogue with the advent of modernism. Tiffany’s work received renewed appreciation in the mid-twentieth century, and continues to be associated with unparalleled quality and beauty to this day. When Tiffany died in 1933, the New York Times obituary counted him “among the best known of American artists.”
Louis Comfort Tiffany: Treasures from the Driehaus Collection was organized by the Richard H. Driehaus Museum and is toured by International Arts & Artists, Washington, DC
Supported by The MacArthur Funds for Arts and Culture at The Richard H. Driehaus Foundation, Arconic, US Bank, Xenotronics, MidAmerican Energy, Schafer Interiors, Cathy Weideman and John Gardner. Media sponsor: Quad-City Times