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Louis Comfort Tiffany

American Painter and Decorative Artist

Louis Comfort Tiffany Photo
Movements and Styles: Art Nouveau, Aesthetic Art

Born: February 18, 1848 - New York

Died: January 17, 1933 - New York

"Beauty is what nature has lavished upon us as a supreme gift."

Summary of Louis Comfort Tiffany

One of America's most celebrated artists, Louis Comfort Tiffany revolutionized the production of stained glass and incorporated it into innovative designs and unusual decorative items. This served to reinvigorate an industry that had barely changed since the Medieval Period. He combined exquisite craftsmanship with a love of color and he became known for his ability to 'paint' with glass. Although he is best known for his glasswork, he designed across a range of mediums from jewelry to pottery and was particularly associated with the Art Nouveau movement, featuring as one of its most imaginative and prolific creators. Tiffany was also one of the first American designers to gain acclaim abroad and his work was distributed across Europe by Siegfried Bing, founder of the famous and influential L'Art Nouveau gallery.

Key Ideas

Tiffany believed that nature should be the main source of design inspiration and the vast majority of his pieces feature images of landscapes, plants, or animals. Tiffany's love of nature and his drive to incorporate new technologies into his work closely aligned him with Art Nouveau and he was very significant in introducing the movement to America, helping to popularize it through his designs and encouraging others to work in a similar style.
Instead of painting onto the glass to achieve detail in the traditional manner of stained-glass production, Tiffany dispensed with the paint and used glass alone to create his objects, allowing the pieces of glass to dictate the form of the finished product. He also worked to develop new processes and techniques including "favrile" and the formation of opalescent glass which produced richer colors and more interesting effects, giving him a greater choice of raw materials. These innovations allowed him to create incredibly intricate pieces that were entirely novel within the field of glass making.
Tiffany's work drew on a very diverse range of influences - from the Arts and Crafts movement in England, which informed his craftsmanship, to historical and classical sources. He was particularly interested in works from China, Japan, India, and the Islamic World and his Orientalist perspective can be seen in his early paintings as well as in motifs and decorative elements in his later designs.
Architectural Elements from Laurelton Hall, which are now displayed in the Metropolitan Museum in New York City

Despite his privileged background, Louis Comfort Tiffany understood how hard it could be to make a living in art. So, he turned his private home Laurelton Hall into a retreat where struggling artists were offered no instruction or critique, were called "fellows", rather than students, and were invited to take advantage of a slower pace of life to develop their craft.

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