Louis Comfort Tiffany (1848-1933) embodied the definition of the multifaceted artist.
Son of Charles Lewis Tiffany, the founder of Tiffany & Co., Louis quickly set out to establish himself as an artist. After graduating from a military academy, Louis trained as a painter in the New York studios of George Inness and Samuel Colman, founder of the National Academy of Design. Tiffany later traveled to Europe, working in the atelier of French Academic painters Léon-Charles Adrien Bailly and Léon-Adolphe-Auguste Belly in Paris. Throughout the 1870s and 80s he went on a number of painting expeditions, traversing Europe and North Africa, and filling up sketchbooks along the way - a habit he maintained throughout his life.
Throughout the 1860s and 70s Tiffany exhibited paintings at The National Academy of Design, where he was a member, to generally favorable review. Yet he continued to push himself creatively.
Around 1880, Tiffany's focus began to shift to a number of prominent interior design projects. His passion for devising artistic interior spaces manifested in a number of business ventures during the last quarter of the 19th century. As part of the famed partnership of Louis C. Tiffany and Associated Artists, joined by Colman, Candace Wheeler and Lockwood de Forest, Tiffany designed innovative interiors for clients ranging from Mark Twain to the elaborate Gilded Age mansions of the new American elite, even earning a commission for the interior of The White House from President Chester A. Arthur in 1882.
" ... [Mr. Tiffany] now devotes about all his time to artistic house furnishing, and his designs and ideas are becoming all the rage with those who can afford to indulge in them. He has designed one of the prettiest theatre interiors in the country, and many of the private residences of the wealthy both in New York and Brooklyn have been made beautiful under his supervision."
“Fine Arts: Art Notes,” Brooklyn Daily Eagle, September 24, 1880
“I have always striven to fix beauty in wood, stone, glass or pottery, in oil or watercolor by using whatever seemed fittest for the expression of beauty, that has been my creed.”
- Louis Comfort Tiffany, "The Art Work of Louis Comfort Tiffany" 1913
Tiffany first began to experiment with glass in the early 1870s, incorporating hand-cut pieces of flat, opalescent glass into his designs for leaded glass windows of all shapes, sizes and subjects from gestural abstractions to naturalistic scenes. He soon began to expand his use of the material, incorporating glass panels into elaborately carved pieces of furniture in the Aesthetic taste, designing early electric light fixtures with Thomas Edison, and utilizing panels of leaded glass in his interior design projects.
As part of his personal quest to achieve the highest level of beauty possible, Tiffany felt creatively limited by the commercial glass available on the market. Seeking to fully realize his artistic vision, Tiffany eventually opened his own glass furnaces in 1893 and began to manufacture the groundbreaking glass for which he would achieve worldwide fame.
Tiffany’s artistry reflected his personal vision, in which love of nature, emulation of past styles, and the use of innovative techniques to achieve brilliant color and texture reigned supreme. Throughout the four decades of production at Tiffany Studios, Louis Comfort Tiffany’s “quest of beauty” remained constant and produced some of the most stunning and important examples of American decorative arts and design of the late 19th and early 20th centuries.