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What American glass company produced more art glass than any other?

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The Legend of Bohemian Glass:
A Thousand Years of Glassmaking in the Heart of Europe

by Antonin Langhamer

This book offers a comprehensive overview of the history and traditions of Czech art glass. Divided into 12 chapters, the book details the evolution and development of glassmaking as an art form from the earliest times, when the first glass beads appeared in central Europe, to the present.
                                   
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The Art Glass of Louis Comfort Tiffany

This video introduces the work of Louis Comfort Tiffany, highlighting the expansive range of artistic objects created during his career. It also showcases Tiffany Studios' Favrile glass and provides an historical look at the life of Tiffany.
 

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LATEST FEATURE____________________________________

The Pursuit of Beauty
by Bob Brooke

 

Louis Comfort Tiffany was a very special person. He not only worked with glass, he had a relationship with it. He didn’t just create art glass, he actually created the type of glass—favrille—that he used to create his pieces.

By the time Louis Comfort Tiffany had been born in 1848, his father, Charles Louis Tiffany, had established himself as a jeweler and silversmith, founding the firm of Tiffany & Young in 1837. By the year 1870, his father's was the smartest shop in the country and was able to present for sale what was possibly the largest collection of gems in the world. The firm's own silverware was of a very high standard and had won prizes in European exhibitions, including the Paris Exhibition of 1867.

The young Tiffany took little interest in his father’s business and seemed to have no enthusiasm for the commercial side of it. In 1866, he decided to study art rather than go to college. He first leaned towards landscape painting and developed a romantic view of nature as the pupil of one of America's leading landscape artists, George Inness. Tiffany spent the winter of 1868/1869 in Paris with Leon Bailly, who took Tiffany on a visit to Spain and North Africa, instilling in him a fascination for Islamic and Moorish art, the styles of which he adapted in his eclectic decorative schemes.

Unfortunately, Tiffany wasn’t very good at painting, so he decided devote his work to the applied arts and interior decoration. In 1879, he formed a partnership with Samuel Colman and Candace Wheeler, which he called Louis C. Tiffany and Associated Artists.

He quickly gained an excellent reputation, and his pre-eminence as America's leading interior decorator. In the winter of 1882/1883, the White House invited him to redecorate parts of it.



The Associated Artists decorative work was essentially high Victorian with a sense of harmony, blending Islamic art with their own embroidered hangings and painted friezes and with tiling and paneling in the colored glass in which Tiffany was becoming interested.

He became interested in the domestic applications of glass, so he decided to break from the Associated Artists and focus on glassmaking. During his travels, Tiffany had formed a collection of glass — his particular fascination was with ancient glass with its marvelous nacreous iridescence, caused by decomposition while buried, and by the effects of metallic oxides. Tiffany also loved the pitted and corroded effects caused by decomposition. He saw the beauty of what were essentially imperfections in the glass. It became his ambition to learn so much about glass and its reactions to different types of chemicals that he would be able to control these accidental imperfections.



Colored glass fascinated him. The art of stained-glass windows was a challenge he couldn’t resist, but he was horrified by those craftsmen who were content to apply painted decoration to the glass. Tiffany felt most strongly that any decoration in his glasswork should be integral to the glass body. If, for instance, he wanted a glass vase to be decorated with flowers, he felt their presence should be represented by the texture and the color of the glass itself rather than just painting them on.

Tiffany was further inspired by the simplicity of the forms of ancient glass, just as he was horrified by 19th-century efforts to mold or cut glass into shapes more appropriate for bronze or porcelain. The irregularity of form of ancient glass awed him and, as a result, his own glassware had a certain asymmetry.

Tiffany didn’t produce all the glass that bears his name, although he kept a close supervision on everything that left his workshops. And though he experimented intensively with different types of glass, most of his output was of commercial quality, for he had a very large and enthusiastic clientele.

He kept the market happy with the plain gold luster pieces—vases, sets of beakers, glasses, tazze, bowls, finger-bowls and stands---which form the largest single category, designed mostly as decorative tableware In a patent claim filed in 1880, Tiffany described the essential method of producing iridescent glass as forming a film of a metal or its oxide or a compound of the metal on or in the glass, either by exposing it to vapors or gasses or by direct application. It may also be produced by corroding the surface of the glass, such processes being well known to glass manufacturers.

Tiffany found how cobalt or copper oxides could color glass blue, how iron oxide resulted in green, how manganese oxide produced shades of violet; how gold or copper produced red, how coke, coal or other carbon oxides gave an amber color, and how manganese cobalt and iron could combine to give a black glass. He achieved the distinctive gold luster gold chloride either suspended in the glass or sprayed on while the glass was still hot from the furnace. He used $25 gold pieces as the base. After the plain gold glass, the most frequent colors were blue, green, white, yellow, brown, amethyst, black, and red.

The second most numerous category was his decorated iridescent ware, which included all types of glass from the superb Peacock Feather vases and the flower forms to the simpler vases decorated with a few trailing ivy leaves or lily pads. Tiffany's Peacock Feather vases were the ultimate achievement in this technique, and they were often further enhanced by inlaid evil eyes of dark colored glass.

Another group that presented Tiffany with technical problems was his paperweight vases in which he trapped floral decoration between two layers of glass. An initial form would have been blown into its warm, soft surface would have been into pressed colored glass to form flower-patterns. These would be rolled until smooth and the whole would be cased in a further layer of glass, thus giving to the surface of the object an illusion of great depth which was sometimes enhanced by a light internal iridescence. Perhaps the finest quality paperweight vases were those which incorporated millefiore glass in which glassblowers sliced glass canes and then embedded them in groups in the inner layer of glass, then rolled into the surface. These millefiore canes were similar to ones used in traditional French paperweights, but Tiffany’s application was all the more remarkable because he was able to create so successfully a three-dimensional effect with so thin a body.

WATCH A VIDEO:  The Art Glass of Louis Comfort Tiffany



Cypriote was the name given to a type of glass most closely inspired by the corroded textures of excavated ancient glass. Nearly always found in brown or blue opaque glass, Cypriote ware featured a crusty surface. Tiffany achieved this effect by rolling the body over a marvel covered with pulverized crumbs of glass. Cypriote pieces were often haphazard in form and were often larger than other types of vases..

Lava glass was generally of a dark blue luster body with voluptuous, abstract-organic, trailed or poured, gold luster decoration. In their 'very free conception of form, they were among the most revolutionary of Tiffany's works.

There are other categories such as Agate ware—colored glasses run together and then polished down to resemble agate—and Marbleized ware---colors blended to resemble the texture of marble—and the various glasses used in the series of leaded shades for table lamps which helped more than anything else to make Tiffany's name a household word. No well-decorated home in America was complete without one.

While Louis Comfort Tiffany was no great social theorist, his influence, however, was very great in giving an identity to American craftsmanship. At the back of his mind was always an ambition to become a kind of American William Morris, but he found it all too easy to indulge his taste for the luxurious and the exotic. There was no return to simplicity, although there was a return to nature and inspiration from organic form.

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