Life through rose-coloured glasses? No — but life through a spectacular kaleidoscope for a couple of hours.
This journey, on January 10, 2019, found me at the Morse Museum of American Art in Winter Park, Florida, inhaling the art collection of Louis Comfort Tiffany (1848-1933). Tiffany’s all encompassing vision took the science of glassmaking, and elevated it to a new art form of brilliance and beauty.
Tiffany was a painter, decorator, architect, photographer, jeweller and designer of pottery, furniture and enamels. Nature was his muse, colour was his obsession, and exotic culture was his endless quest. An exhibition, unveiled at his 68th birthday party, was themed a “Quest For Beauty”…..no kidding.
Outside of his stunning brilliance as an artist, I was most intrigued by the fact that the true brains behind many of his designs were in fact, carried out by women! Tiffany established the Women’s Glass Cutting Department at his New York factory in 1892 and, by 1897, between forty and fifty women were employed in his glass workshop, designing and cutting some of the most iconic glass lamps and jewelry ever made.
Clara Driscoll, supervisor of the department, designed many of the most popular lampshades that we associate with Tiffany today – including the Dragonfly and Water shades that were awarded the medal of excellence at the 1900 World’s Fair in Paris.
Along with two bankruptcy’s endured in his lifetime, a fire at his Long Island mansion in 1957 gutted many of his most prized pieces of glass. However it was through the foresight of Hugh McKean and his wife Jeanette that some of the pieces were salvaged and put back together through the use of photograph and old photographs. This museum is a testament to a man’s fortitude and vision and legions of women’s creative expression to bring beauty to the world forever.
The pieces shown are from the 1600 square foot space referred to as the Forest Room – his dining room. Especially notable are the Four Seasons which epitomize Tiffany’s personal aesthetic and lifelong pursuit of beauty.