Louis Comfort Tiffany was the son of Charles Lewis Tiffany. He began his artistic career as a painter but then became interested in stained glass. Originally he worked with cheap jelly jars and bottles because the mineral impurities in the glass he found compelling. He later made his own glass because he was unable to convince glass makers to produce opaque glass and glass with the impurities he sought. His work followed the ideas of the Arts and Crafts movement and William Morris.
Tiffany’s family money and connections allowed him to found Tiffany Studios. Tiffany not only created stained glass lamps and windows, his company had a full line of interior design items, metalwork pieces, jewelry, mosaics, and potter. He directed a full team of designers that created his beautiful floral patterns, art nouveau designs, and other decorative elements. Tiffany not only created single pieces, he designed private and public interiors. He redecorated the White House for Chester Alan Arthur.
Tiffany’s leaded-glass brought him the most recognition. Tiffany and one of his rivals, John La Farge, revolutionized the look of stained glass. Since medieval times craftsmen had utilized flat panes of white and colored glass with details painted with glass paints before firing and leading, Tiffany and La Farge experimented with new types of glass. By creating a more varied palette capable of richer hues, they could get a different level of realism in their depictions. Both Tiffany and La Farge patented an opalescent glass. The opaque glass was internally colored with variegated shades of the same or different rainbow hues. The piece titled “Magnolias and Irises,” was made by Tiffany Studios around 1908. It was created as a memorial window based on the “River of Life.” It depicts magnolias composed of opalescent drapery glass, heavily folded or creased glass, and irises in multihued tones showing off Tiffany’s innovations and ability to paint with glass.
Beautiful dragonflies adorn desk lamps, multi-panel scenes decorate churches, and a riot of color and illuminating innovation are Tiffany’s legacy.