The Mastery of Louis Comfort Tiffany:

Prayer of the Shepherd

PART 1 OF 3

Prayer of the Shepherd

Prayer of the Shepherd

Designed and painted by Frederick Wilson at Tiffany Studios

The Glass of the Tiffany Furnaces

Light and color captivated Louis Comfort Tiffany at an early age. As a young boy, he collected interesting stones and pebbles and bits of glass. Could this childhood fascination have given rise to his incredibly beautiful stained glass windows? His early interest grew when he was introduced to the magnificent windows of Chartres Cathedral on his first trip to Europe. He eventually realized that glass provided the perfect medium for combining color and light. For the rest of his life, he sought to create glass more stunning and spectacular than any ever seen before.

Early in his career, Tiffany bought glass from existing glass houses. But in the late 1800s competition was growing and Tiffany wanted to safeguard his trade secrets. Thus, he opened his own workshops and glass furnaces in Corona, New York, in 1892. The skilled English glassworker Arthur J. Nash ran the glasshouse. He developed methods of blending different colors of glass that resulted in stunning new shades. Multiple hues appeared even within a single piece of glass—in great contrast to the centuries-old pot metal glass that was uniformly colored. He also created new types of textured glass. The glass from Tiffany’s furnaces could depict fabric, foliage, water, a sunset, and more without the use of paint.

The formulas for glass were a guarded secret. Nash reportedly did not share them even with Tiffany himself. Nash was a master chemist, while Tiffany provided the artistic vision. However, 

Tiffany had studied the techniques and chemistry of glassmaking, allowing him to contribute even on technical matters. Leslie Hayden Nash, son of John Nash, also worked for Tiffany. Unlike his father, he was bitter towards Tiffany. He felt Tiffany received all the fame and credit while others did the work. However, Tiffany was the creative genius behind it all.

The glass at Corona was produced in large sheets that were cut into pieces for stained glass windows or into tiles for mosaics. Artists incorporated the new types of glass developed at Corona into other decorative objects as well. In 1893, Tiffany introduced his blown-glass vases and bowls, which he called “Favrile,” a name based on an old English word for handmade. The glass was infused with radiant colors and iridescence. The firm continued to expand production of decorative objects. This served two purposes—to provide an additional outlet for Tiffany’s creativity and to make Tiffany products available to a wider audience.

In 1895, there was one sheet glass shop and one glass blowing shop at Corona; by 1915, there were five glass blowing shops. The sheet glass inventory at Corona contained hundreds of colors and types of glass. The Tiffany firm used its facilities to experiment and create more unusual colors and types of glass, while other companies often supplied more ordinary varieties. The Tiffany furnaces ceased operation in the early 1930s before Tiffany’s death in 1933.

Louis Comfort Tiffany (1848–1933)

Louis Comfort Tiffany revolutionized and dominated the American stained glass art at the turn of the 20th century. His windows are visual feasts known for their brilliant colors and intricate designs. But the scope of his talent and vision went far beyond this one artistic endeavor. Under his direction, his studios also created mosaics, lighting, Favrile glass, pottery, metalwork, enamels, jewelry, and interiors. His lifelong fascination with color and light and a pursuit of beauty inspired his work. His abiding love of nature was also a source of inspiration. The many mediums in which Tiffany worked are represented in this collection. The objects are displayed throughout the museum. Each has a corresponding panel that describes its characteristics and significance. During his lifetime, Tiffany presented spectacular displays at exhibitions throughout the United States and around the world. He was one of the first American artists to receive international acclaim. The Tiffany items at this museum illustrate the astonishing creativity, versatility, and beauty of his work.