Beauty In The Details
The Life’s Work Of Louis Tiffany And His Glass Mosaics
Most people have heard of the jewellery company Tiffany’s based out of New York, but few know that its origins run back to the father and son who first opened the business as a “fancy goods” store. Louis Comfort Tiffany and his father Charles Tiffany founded Tiffany & Company in 1837. This was the start of Louis Tiffany’s career, but he quickly turned to other things and focused on his own art.
Painting was Tiffany’s first creative passion, and it has always been a central part of his artistic life. His career began in the late nineteenth century and continued into the early twentieth century until his death in 1933. While Louis began as a painter, he began expanding his impressive repertoire of skills to include other mediums such as glass, pottery, and metalwork, among others.
Further into his career, while he continued to work closely with his father’s company as art director, he worked on numerous other projects outside the company. One of his notable works was introducing enamel artwork to London in an exhibition in 1899. He did some stunning interior design work for several top clients as well. During that time he designed and decorated his own dream home in New York between 1902 and 1905. He combined many of his other talents with his interior decorating and design skills.
Louis Tiffany is most famous for his groundbreaking work with glass. Stain glass techniques had been the same for hundreds of years until Tiffany came along and revolutionized the art. He invented and patented new types of glass to use in his pieces which allowed him to work with a wider and more diverse range of colours never before seen in stain glass art. He also began using a mosaic pattern inspired by the ancient mosaics of the Byzantine-era churches in eastern Europe, which would become his signature style. These new techniques transformed stain glass and allowed for fine details to be incorporated directly into the glass itself, rather than painted over top of the existing glass as per the traditional method.
The soul reason stain glass even exists in North America is due to Tiffany’s contributions to reviving and modernizing the art form. Today, many of Tiffany’s glass mosaics can be found in exhibitions such as the one at the Corning Museum of Glass in New York. His original work is becoming increasingly rare as many of the buildings and churches that contained his stain glass artwork have since been demolished, unfortunately taking the precious glass down with them. So the next time you see stain glass in a mid-nineteenth century building, you can thank Louis Tiffany for the inspiration.
Although he may be lesser known in the mainstream art community, Louis Comfort Tiffany was one of the great artists of modern American history. He devoted his life to an everlasting “quest for beauty” and never ceased to push the limits of his career or his artwork. His life-long passion is an example of how one man can leave a legacy of innovation and creativity, and leave the world a little bit more beautiful than he found it.