Childhood & Early Life
Louis Comfort Tiffany was born on February 18, 1848, in New York City, to Charles Lewis Tiffany and Harriet Olivia Avery Young. His father was a jewelry expert and trader who founded ‘Tiffany and Co’. He had five siblings.
Young Louis had his formal education from Pennsylvania Military Academy in Pennsylvania and Eagleswood Military Academy in New Jersey. Not wishing to join the family jewelry business he decided to become a painter instead.
Tiffany studied painting under George Innes in New Jersey, and Samuel Colman in New York. He also studied for two years under Leon-Adolphe-Auguste Belly and was greatly influenced by his landscapes.
Continuing his art education, Tiffany traveled to Europe and spent time in Paris studying narrative subjects. He also traveled to North Africa which left a deep impression and many of his major works show Moroccan influence.
Louis Comfort Tiffany returned to the United States and joined New York’s ‘National Academy of Design’ as an associate. By this time, he was already becoming a well-known painter.
By 1875 Tiffany’s interest turned to glassmaking. He trained at Brooklyn’s ‘Heidt glassworks’ together with painter John La Farge. His initial experiments were in stained glass.
Tiffany was fascinated by the finish of the ancient Greek and Roman glassworks. He tried to replicate the typical iridescent finish on stained glass and by late 1870 he had applied for a patent for the same.
By 1879, he established his own business. Named ‘Louis Comfort Tiffany and Associated American Artists’, his business associates were Candace Wheeler, Samuel Colman and Lockwood de Forest. The venture lasted four years.
In the late 1870s Tiffany started working on interiors. His first work was for his home, where he created a glass window with an abstract design using opalescent, confetti glass and crown glass. He went on to design interiors for many mansions including the house of author Mark Twain and a gallery for the ‘Art Institute of Chicago’.
His fame in the New York society led US President, Chester Alan Arthur, to commission him to redecorate the reception rooms of the White House. Tiffany carried out extensive redecoration work which included putting up a stained-glass screen in the entrance hall.
In 1893, Tiffany established the ‘Tiffany Glass Furnaces’ factory along with Arthur Nash, a talented glassworker. This factory in Corona, Queens, New York, became famous for blending different colours of molten glass to create shading and textural effects.
Tiffany named the glass ‘Favrile’ from the Latin root word ‘faber’ which meant hand-made. Favrile glass took the world over by storm. In Central Europe, this glass became the new mode.
At the Paris Exhibition of 1889, Tiffany came across the blown glass work of French Art Nouveau artist Émile Gallé. Tremendously influenced by Gallé, he made exquisite creations with Favrile glass from 1896 to 1900 which put him at the forefront of the Art Nouveau movement.
Tiffany’s interest in interiors made him diversify into another avenue in 1898, that of lamps and lightings. His studio produced the famous hand-crafted Tiffany Lamps with their colourful glass shades and exquisite designs.
For over a 100 years, it was believed that Tiffany was the designer of these lamps but new research has emerged suggesting that the designer was a woman named Clara Driscoll. She led a team of talented women also known as the Tiffany Girls who hand-crafted these lamps.
Works in mosaics were a natural progression for Tiffany. Glass mosaics were not only used in churches and fireplace decorations but many artistic pieces were created with them. Tiffany experimented with colours and shapes of the mosaic tiles. The famous ‘Garden Landscape’ is a brilliant example of his mosaic work.
In 1899 Tiffany exhibited his firm’s unique enamel work in London. The plaques and vases with luminous and multiple shaded enamel work showed his extraordinary mastery of enamel craft.
The beginning of the 20th century saw a resurgence of the popularity of American ceramics. In keeping with the trend, Tiffany opened a pottery studio. His works were inspired by modern European artists. He was particularly influenced by French ceramics which he saw on his trips to Paris.
Upon the death of his father in 1902, he was made the artistic director of Tiffany & Co. The ‘Tiffany Artistic Jewelry department’ was set up under his guidance. Tiffany brought his innovative ideas inspired by nature into the designs.
One of Tiffany’s finest works was his own country home in Long Island, New York. This 84-room, eight-level estate was built from 1902 to 1905. This luxurious work of art was the culmination of all the artistic influences and creativity of Tiffany’s life. Unfortunately, it was destroyed by fire in 1957.
Awards & Achievements
Louis Comfort Tiffany received the Chevalier of the Legion of Honour, the highest honour of France, in 1900. His father had also received it.
He was also an honorary member of the ‘Imperial Society of Fine Arts’ in Tokyo and the ‘National Society of Fine Arts’ in Paris.
`The Louis Comfort Tiffany Foundation for Art Students’ was set up in 1919 by Tiffany. This was located at his famous Long Island estate, Laurelton Hall.
Family & Personal Life
Lous Comfort Tiffany was married twice. His first wife was Mary Woodbridge Goddard whom he married on May 15, 1872. The couple had four children
After the death of his first wife, Tiffany got married to Louise Wakeman Knox on November 9, 1886. He had four children from his second wife.
On January 17, 1933, Tiffany passed away at the age of 84. He is buried in Green-Wood Cemetery in Brooklyn, New York.