Louis Comfort Tiffany

Inspiration, Artistry, Chemistry

Ongoing, Katzwinkel Gallery

Louis Comfort Tiffany (American 1848–1933) helped revive the ancient art of glass, creating jewel-toned windows and lamps, and designing opalescent vessels influenced by unearthed Roman, Greek, and Mesopotamian works. This collection exhibition features an assortment of Tiffany’s art glass and examples of the ancient Roman glass vessels that inspired him.

Glass is liquid and solid, transparent and opaque, clear and prismatic, impermeable and mostly impervious. Despite our modern scientific understanding of its chemical properties, its magic still has the power to surprise and delight. Throughout history, glass has been used for functional and decorative objects. Inspired by the historical vessels he viewed in a London museum, Tiffany experimented with forms and techniques, hoping to reinvent the iridescent quality and graceful forms of ancient glass.

The eldest son of Tiffany and Co. founder, C.L. Tiffany, Louis left the family jewelry business to become an artist and designer. As a young man, he exhibited his paintings, designed posh interiors, and accepted commissions for stained glass windows. He founded his first glass factory in 1885 and began hiring expert chemists, designers, and glass workers to bring his ideas to fruition. His quest to reproduce the iridescent finishes of ancient glass eventually led Tiffany to Arthur Nash.

Born in 1849 in England, Arthur John Nash studied glass chemistry at the Academy of Fine and Applied Arts. He began his career as a consulting chemist for glass factories in England. Tiffany hired Nash to oversee his newly founded Stourbridge Glass Company. In 1893, Nash developed the formula for Favrile, a patented name derived from an old English word meaning “hand-wrought.” Eventually, Nash and his son took over Tiffany’s glass-making operation and began producing their own designs as the A. Douglas Nash Company.

Nash was just one of many anonymous artisans and designers who developed Tiffany products, yet Louis Comfort Tiffany has long been celebrated as the singular genius behind the designs. Tiffany’s designs went out of vogue as the Gilded Age began to tarnish. Tiffany Studios finally declared bankruptcy during the Great Depression.

This collections exhibition was made possible through the generosity of the individuals who donated this exquisite glass to the Erie Art Museum: Brad and Sandy Johnson, Dr. and Mrs. Kirk Steehler, Mrs. Faydelle Schott, and Nathalie Thompson. We deeply appreciate the many volunteers who helped with the installation, and the artists, donors, and staff who make our exhibitions and educational programming possible.