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 Louis Comfort Tiffany  (1848 - 1933)

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Lived/Active: New York/California      Known for: exotic landscape-genre, still life

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Louis Jiffany is primarily known as Louis Comfort Tiffany

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Ad Code: 2
Louis Comfort Tiffany
from Auction House Records.
Beach Scene, Sea Bright, New Jersey
Artwork images are copyright of the artist or assignee
This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Born in New York City to the founder of Tiffany & Co., the famous jewelry store, Louis Comfort Tiffany became known for his designs of richly colored works of glass in the Art Nouveau style. However, he expressed no interest in the family business and focused on his own painting talents, starting as a creator of landscapes, still lifes, and genre scenes, working in both oil and watercolor.

He studied painting with landscapist George Inness, who gave him much encouragement.  With an interest in Islamic and art of the Far East, inspired by Tiffany & Company's chief designer, Edward Moore, Tiffany studied in Paris with Leon Bally, a specialist in Middle Eastern subjects. This education combined with an 1869 visit to Spain and North Africa with artist Samuel Colman stirred a life-long interest in strong color.  On this trip, Colman encouraged Tiffany to make watercolor sketches for later conversion into paintings. I n 1874, Tiffany returned to Europe, spending much time in Brittany.

Throughout the 1870s, he exhibited his paintings widely, and in 1877, became one of the secessionist artists that included John La Farge and Augustus Saint-Gaudens who rebelled against the staid National Academy of Design and formed the Society of American Artists.  By 1875, he had begun to work with stained glass for which he is primarily known, and he developed a method of shaping glass in its molten state, allowing him to create a mosaic effect.  In 1879, he focused on interior design and with Colman and others formed Louis C Tiffany and Associated Artists, a collaboration underlying the famous Tiffany glass designs that included the signature Tiffany leaded-glass lamp shades.

However, he did not completely forsake painting, and in 1886 (on his honeymoon), 1916, and 1917, he traveled West where he visited Yellowstone National Park, which resulted in dramatic landscape paintings.  He also visited the Orient where he focused again on dramatic and exotic aspects of the landscape.

At his home at Oyster Bay, Long Island, he established the Louis Comfort Tiffany Foundation for aspiring young artists and craftsmen. Ultimately, this location became the repository for his art collections.

Michael David Zellman, 300 Years of American Art
Peter Hassrick, Drawn to Yellowstone
Peter Falk, Who Was Who in American Art

Two recent articles on Tiffany appeared in Style 1900 and 19th Century Magazine:
Lindsy Riepma Parrott "Tiffany's Favrile Pottery," , Style 1900 (Spring/Summer 2004)
Lindsy Riepma Parrott "The Ceramics of Louis Comfort Tiffany," 19th Century Magazine (Spring 2006)

These Notes from AskART represent the beginning of a possible future biography for this artist. Please click here if you wish to help in its development:
Born in New York on Feb. 18, 1848. Tiffany was in Pasadena in 1888 and did several watercolors of the area. In 1908 he was in San Francisco and painted scenes of Chinatown. He died in NYC on Jan. 17, 1933. Member: NA. Exh: NAD, 1888; Paris Expo, 1900 (gold medal); Turin Expo, 1904 (grand prize). In: MM; Brooklyn Museum; NAD.
Edan Hughes, "Artists in California, 1786-1940"
American Art Annual 1898-1931; American Magazine of Art, Aug. 1922; American Art & Antiques, March 1979; Dictionary of American Painters, Sculptors & Engravers (Fielding, Mantle); Dictionnaire des Peintres, Sculpteurs, Dessinateurs, et Graveurs (Bénézit, E); NY Times, 1-18-1933 (obituary).
Nearly 20,000 biographies can be found in Artists in California 1786-1940 by Edan Hughes and is available for sale ($150). For a full book description and order information please click here.

Biography from Blake Benton Fine Art, Artists S - Z:
Louis Comfort Tiffany, painter, stained glass designer, studio glass artist, art director, and craftsman, was born in New York, February 18th, 1848.  Tiffany was a student of George Inness and Samuel Coleman in New York and Leon Bailly in Paris.  Early on it was Tiffany's achievement in stained glass that brought him world fame.  One contemporary critic of Tiffany stated: "It is acknowledged by all experts that the great advance made in this country in both colored windows and wall mosaic work is largely due to the discoveries and inventions of Mr. Tiffany, Particularly that of Favrile Glass."  Favrile glass was an iridescent glass that Tiffany created in his famous Tiffany studios, and Favrile glass was copied by almost every important glass studio working at the time, but few came close to the quality and style that Tiffany employed in his process.

Very few people associate Tiffany with anything else but "art glass" and "lamps" but he was a very gifted painter who demonstrated as much an appreciation for color and light in his canvases as he did his glass.  He was an excellent draftsman (perhaps from his background as a designer) and quite skilled in the way he handled his paint application, quick, unlabored strokes were used to create excellent effect of light and shadow. 

A critic wrote: "In painting, Mr. Tiffany makes a specialty of oriental scenes. Well known subjects are: "Street Scene in Tangiers" 'Feeding the Flamingoes" "Dock scene" The cobblers at Boufarick" "Market day at Nuremburg" "Study of Quimper, Brittany" and "Duane street, New York."

Tiffany painted all over the world from Asia, Africa, Europe, and the United States recording scenes from every day life that seem plain and unworldly when compared to his elaborate decorations in glass.  They have a certain charm to them, especially when viewed against the background of the man who created them. In Tffany's paintings one almost gets the sense that these were his recreation, that he found comfort in the plain honest truth of everyday life and sought to capture it on canvas.

He was also known for landscapes, portraits, towns, gardens, interiors, Orientals, and North African scenes. 

Tiffany was an associate member of the National Academy of Design, 1887; full member, 1880; elected chevalier of the Legion of Honor of France, 1900.  In 1877, he was one of the Secessionist Artists that included John La Farge and Augustus Saint- Gaudens who rebelled against the staid National Academy and formed the Society of American Artists.

Memberships include the American Watercolor Society; New York Architectural League, 1889; Century Association; National Arts Club; New York Society of Fine Arts; New York Municipal Art Society; New York Etching Club; Societe Nationale des beaux Arts and others.

He won numerous awards including: Gold medal for applied arts, Paris Expo., 1900; gold medal, Panama Pacific Expo., San Francisco, 1915; gold medal, Sesquicentennial Expo., Philadelphia, 1926.

He was art director and president of Tiffany Co.  In 1918 he established the Louis Comfort Tiffany Foundation for art students at Oyster Bay, Long Island, and deeded to it his art collections, gallery, chapel and country estate.

He died January 17th, 1933 in New York City.

Blake Benton Fine Art

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Louis Jiffany is also mentioned in these AskART essays:
Art Nouveau
San Francisco Panama-Pacific Exhibition 1915
Paris Pre 1900

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