Tiffany glass exhibition on display at the Georgia Museum of Art
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Tiffany glass exhibition on display at the Georgia Museum of Art
Tiffany Glass & Decorating Company, Fish and Waves lamp, ca. 1900. Blown glass, patinated bronze. Photograph by John Faier. © 2013 The Richard H. Driehaus Museum.

ATHENS, GA.- Although best known for his work in glass, Louis Comfort Tiffany worked in nearly all the media available to artists and designers in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. A celebration of his works, “Louis Comfort Tiffany: Treasures from the Driehaus Collection,” featuring more than 60 objects and spanning over 30 years of his prolific career, is coming to the Georgia Museum of Art at the University of Georgia from February 1 to May 10, 2020. This exhibition, focusing on Tiffany’s stained-glass windows, floral vases, lamps, and accessories, revels in the artistry and craftsmanship of objects from Chicago’s distinguished Richard H. Driehaus Collection, highlighting works never before presented in a comprehensive exhibition.

The exhibition is sponsored by the Harry and Caroline Gilham Charitable Foundation, Mark and Marjorie McConnell, the Richard H. Driehaus Foundation, the W. Newton Morris Charitable Foundation and the Friends of the Georgia Museum of Art.

Tiffany was born in New York City on February 18, 1848, and began his career as a painter, studying at the National Academy of Design in New York City. Around 1875, he became interested in glassmaking. He preferred to use inexpensive materials because their impurities resulted in the effects he wanted and eventually opened a glass factory to create his own material. In 1894, he patented the term “favrile,” from the Latin word “fabrilis,” meaning handmade, to describe the iridescent blown art glass he was producing. While the quality of Tiffany glass made this medium the most significant of his career, he continued to innovate, expanding his operations into enamels, pottery and jewelry. Notwithstanding his accomplishments, he gave a modest answer when asked about his work: “If I may be forgiven a word about my own work, I would merely say that I have always striven to fix beauty in wood or stone or glass or pottery, in oil or watercolor by using whatever seemed fittest for the expression of beauty; that has been my creed and I see no reason to change it. It seems as if the artists who place all their energies on technique have nothing left over for the more important matter — the pursuit of beauty.”

Despite the success he experienced in his many interrelated businesses over his long career, Tiffany’s work went out of vogue with the advent of modernism, as the influence of art nouveau waned. The mid-20th century brought his work renewed appreciation, and it continues to be associated with unparalleled quality and beauty to this day. Annelies Mondi, the museum’s deputy director, is serving as in-house curator for the traveling exhibition organized by the Richard H. Driehaus Museum and toured by International Arts & Artists, Washington, DC.

David A. Hanks served as curator of the exhibition. He was previously associate curator of American decorative arts at the Art Institute of Chicago and curator, department of American arts, at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Until 2000, he was director of Exhibitions International in New York, a non-profit exhibition service. Since 2000, he has been curator of the Stewart Program for Modern Design, Montreal, and is the consulting curator for the George R. Kravis II Collection.

Mondi says, “In anticipation of hosting this important exhibition from the Richard H. Driehaus Collection, we have been developing a variety of complimentary programming and interactive activities.” Mondi points out that the museum will include in the exhibition a display of tools used in glassworking and examples of several types of glass to let visitors examine their various textures, opacities and colors.

She adds, “The anticipated popularity of this exhibition has spurred us to provide audio tours of the exhibition, our first-ever use of this technology at the Georgia Museum of Art. The associated program will not only include our usual itinerary of popular events but will also include a featured glass-blowing demonstration by the Chrysler Museum of Art’s Perry Glass Studio and presentations of other glassworking techniques by local artists.”

When Tiffany died in 1933, his obituary in the New York Times counted him “among the best known of American artists.” Tiffany’s technical expertise in a wide variety of media enabled him to convey his awe of the natural world through a range of objects, from common household items to one-of-a-kind masterpieces. He earned international acclaim for his artistic output, receiving prestigious awards in exhibitions across Europe and the United States. His work was enthusiastically collected by art museums and private collectors throughout his career and continues to be highly sought after today.

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