STORY WRITTEN BY MARGIE ROYAL
Catharine Dann Roeber, Assistant Professor, Decorative Arts and Material Culture at Winterthur, describes Winterthur Museum’s newest exhibit, “Tiffany Glass: Painting with Color and Light,” as “a beautiful show” and “visually appealing” and she is certainly correct in her description of the gorgeous windows and lamps which now occupy the upstairs gallery next to the “A Colorful Folk: Pennsylvania Germans & the Art of Everyday Life.”
The collection, which was organized by The Neustadt Collection of Tiffany Glass in New York City, showcases works created by Tiffany Studios. The exhibition comes to Wilmington, Delaware, after a stop at the Kalamazoo Institute of Arts in Michigan. Dr. Ergon Neustadt, the founder of The Neustadt Collection, began acquiring Tiffany lamps in 1935. In 1967, he purchased the flat and pressed glass leftover from the 1930s Tiffany Studios closing. A display case of these bits of glass is also on view in the exhibit.
Roeber explained that the recent “Costumes of Downton Abbey” exhibition gained Winterthur 7,000 new members and naturally Winterthur wants to keep them returning. “Tiffany Glass: Painting with Color and Light” may not have the wide-ranging appeal of “Downton Abbey,” but this showcase of five windows and 19 lamps made by Tiffany Studios in the Art Nouveau style is certainly dazzling. Visitors will enter a darkened room, where the vibrant glass windows and glowing jewel-like tones of the lamps will quickly command attention. Large historic photographs of the Tiffany studio in Queens, N.Y., and the Tiffany store showroom in NYC also adorn the walls — and there is even a panel featuring short biographies of some of the key Tiffany Studios employees.
Louis Comfort Tiffany (1848 – 1933), was the son of Charles Lewis Tiffany, co-founder of Tiffany and Co., first known exclusively for its fine silver and jewelry. Louis trained as a painter, but his interest in capturing color and light led him into working with glass. He recruited talented chemists, designers and artisans and together they created stunning artworks in a Queens, N.Y. studio. Surprisingly, there were women employed as well as men. Those who made essential contributions to the artistry of the windows and glass lamp shades were chemist Arthur J. Nash (1849 – 1934) and leading designers Agnes Northrop (1857 – 1953), Clara Driscoll (1861 – 1944), and Frederick Wilson (1858 – 1932). The lead glass lamps and windows they created were in vogue during The Gilded Age, but out of fashion by the 1930s.
According to Lindsy Perrott, Curator of the Neustadt Collection, the works you’ll see at Winterthur “were chosen for their masterful rendering of nature in flowers or landscape scenes and for the subtle use of light and shading in decorative geometric patterns.” Poinsettias, dragonflys, bamboo, apple blossoms, peony, laburnum and clematis are among the nature motifs vibrantly captured in the glass lamp shades on view.
The exhibition also teaches attendees how to spot a Tiffany lamp forgery by showcasing three fakes.
A second, smaller exhibit, “Tiffany: The Color of Luxury” looks at the branding of the Tiffany name in American pop culture. Jewelry, silver wedding gifts, fine stationery, and other more whimsical objects such as silver toothpaste-tube turners and silver telephone dialers are on display. Some of them are Henry Francis du Pont’s own purchases.
IF YOU GO: Both “Tiffany Glass: Painting with Color and Light” and “Tiffany: The Color of Luxury” will be on view through Jan. 3 and are included in the price of general admission to Winterthur ($20, $18 seniors and students, $5 ages 2-11 and free for members and infants under age 2). The Museum is open Tuesday through Sunday, 10 a.m. – 5 p.m. Special events and lectures are being offered during the duration of this exhibit. For details, visit winterthur.org. Winterthur is at 5105 Kennett Pike (Route 52), Winterthur, Del.