Louis Comfort Tiffany (1848-1933) was born in New York and was the founder of the now famous “Tiffany & Company”. He was by profession a skilled jeweller and by nature a talented businessman
Louis started his professional career as a painter and was very enamoured of the work of the American painter Georges Innes whose style was along the lines of Millet, Théodore, Rousseau and Diaz whose intent it was to paint landscapes in a naturalistic style.
In his early days Louis was also very much influenced by Edward C. Moore who was a leading silversmith designer and art connoisseur of the period. Moore himself had a very large collection of superb Oriental glass but recommended that Louis focus on Islamic and Persian art.
Tiffany had a passion for beautiful objects and didn’t just collect them but used them as a basis for his own decorative creations when he worked in collaboration with amongst others, Candace Wheeler, Samuel Colman and Lockwood de Forest who themselves were involved in textiles, interior design and furniture.
It seems that Louis first became seriously interested in stained glass after he encountered it in the various mosques and palaces in Turkey and in 1878 after returning to the United States he founded his own glassworks which produced decorative glass tiles to decorate walls.
At that time stained glass was produced by applying a solution of metal oxides to the glass and then firing it after which the stained glass windows were created by using lead strips to connect the pieces of glass. Tiffany found this technique seriously lacking and went on to develop his own system which used unevenly coloured pieces of opalescent glass that was made by combining and manipulating several colours in order to create an unparalleled range of hues and three dimensional effects.
A new perspective was added to Louis’s life after he hired an English immigrant by the name of Arthur Nash. Nash was a master glassmaker with an all embracing technical knowledge of modern English glass manufacture and their cooperation led to Nash developing a product which he patented in 1894 and which is now known as ‘favrile’ glass. As an aside it might be of interest to note that Nash never shared the secret of the manufacturing process with Tiffany.
The company went on to create its now famous vases which were blown using the ‘favrile’ glass which often required at least twenty firings in order to add the varying structures and colours to the now famous peacock feathers, ipomoea and leaves etc.
Whereas the other glass artists of the period were obliged to resort to a further etching of their products and often the application of enamel in order to enhance them the Tiffany product was entirely a product of the glass blower.
Numerous attempts have been made to mimic Tiffany products by using regularly coloured pieces of glass but none came close to the Tiffany ones which are so famous for their warm colours.
The lamp with which the name Tiffany is perhaps now most synonymous is the one with the adjustable bronze base which merged great practicality with beauty.