Louis C. Tiffany & Tiffany Studios

Louis C. Tiffany & Tiffany Studios

Louis C. Tiffany

Louis Comfort Tiffany, American, 1848-1933

Louis C. Tiffany (American, 1848-1933) was one of America's most acclaimed and talented artists and businessmen working in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. He directed a modern international artistic empire in the design and creation of leaded-glass windows, lamps, blown glass vessels, numerous other objects of luxury, and mosaics—perhaps his most expressive mastery of the medium of glass. Tiffany’s glass mosaic innovations contributed a uniquely American character to the centuries-old art form, defining an aesthetic that remains celebrated today.

Louis C. Tiffany was the son of Charles Lewis Tiffany (American, 1812-1902), founder of the well-known jewelry and fancy goods retailer, Tiffany & Co. Louis studied to be a painter and developed a fascination with the artistic play of color and light. In his 20s, Tiffany’s artistic interests shifted toward decorative arts and interior design, an emerging field of business in America in the last quarter of the 19th century. It was a period of expansive building construction in America, following rapid growth in population and in the economy. Tiffany’s firm was well-positioned to outfit the interiors of grand private residences as well as public buildings like churches, libraries, hotels, theaters, banks, and offices. Tiffany’s glass mosaics were an integral aspect of this business for more than 40 years.

Tiffany traveled extensively in Europe and North Africa throughout most of his life. He absorbed the art, architecture, and cultural influences of France, Italy, Spain, Ireland, Germany, Austria, Great Britain, Switzerland, the Netherlands, Belgium, Algeria and Egypt. He gathered a photographic archive of ancient, Byzantine, and Renaissance architecture, sculpture, decorative works, and even flowers for the designers and artisans at the studios to reference. Tiffany’s extensive library included numerous historical references, books on art and architecture, and botanical volumes. Many of these photographs and books are currently held in the collection of The Charles Hosmer Morse Museum of American Art, Winter Park, Florida, and they were a valuable reference for researching Tiffany’s glass mosaics.

Tiffany’s greatest inspiration came from the natural world. A sophisticated amateur horticulturalist and landscape architect, his greatest masterpiece was his country estate, Laurelton Hall, located on the North Shore of Long Island. The house was an artistic vision unparalleled in architectural history, and Tiffany created a vivid backdrop for it with extensive gardens, woodlands, and ponds. At Tiffany’s studios, workers in all departments studied the live plant clippings that Tiffany brought from home, in addition to consulting the photographs, drawings, and the extensive reference library housed in the studios.

The colors of the natural world were a constant source of inspiration, and the pursuit of new glass formulas and decorative effects occupied Tiffany as well as his talented chemists and glassmakers.

“All my life…I have had a fancy for collecting bits of glass. As a boy I was fond of the bright-colored jewels in my father’s shop [Tiffany and Company], and the passion for color grew with age.”

—Louis C. Tiffany, “Decorative Glass Work,” The Evening Post (New York), August 10, 1881, p.4.

The artwork that best reflects this passion and pursuit is The Dream Garden (1916), one of Tiffany’s most glorious and sophisticated artworks in glass mosaic. Explore more about The Dream Garden and Louis C. Tiffany in the exhibition, Tiffany’s Glass Mosaics.

Resources for further study

If you are interested in conducting more research on Louis C. Tiffany and Tiffany Studios, the resources listed below are a great place to start.

Browse the LibGuides

Explore the Tiffany Chronology from the Morse Museum