American, 1848–1933


“Louis Comfort Tiffany painted oil and watercolor throughout his career, producing genre scenes, landscapes, and still lifes as well as sketches for his decorative work. He was aware of his limitations as a painter, however, and after 1880, devoted himself primarily to decorative work and the design and production of glass, becoming the leading exponent of art nouveau in America. The son of Charles L. Tiffany, founder of the New York jewelry store that still bears the family name, he was educated in boarding schools. He was not interested in the family business, however, and in 1866 decided to study art rather than attend college. He sketched rural scenes in upper Manhattan and frequented the studio of George Inness (1825–1894), who apparently offered the young artist some criticism and instruction.

“Tiffany began to exhibit at the National Academy of Design in 1867, and the following year he left for Europe. In Paris he studied with Léon Belly, who specialized in landscapes and Islamic genre scenes, and in the spring of 1869, he accompanied Samuel Colman (1832–1920) on a trip to North Africa. Under Colman’s influence, he made outdoor sketches in watercolors and on his return to New York joined the American Water Color Society. He became a member of the Century Association in 1870 and the following year was elected an associate of the National Academy of Design. Tiffany went back to Europe in 1874 and spent the summer in Brittany. Throughout the 1870s he did paintings which were often based on his travels in Europe and North Africa. These were exhibited at the Centennial Exhibition in 1876 and the Paris Exposition in 1878; two years later he was made an academician at the National Academy.

“In 1879, at the age of thirty-one, Tiffany embarked on a new career, that of interior decoration. Encouraged by Edward C. Moore, his father’s chief designer, he joined with Colman, Lockwood de Forest (1850–1932), and Candace Wheeler, a textile and needlework designer, to found Louis C. Tiffany and Associated Artists. Strongly influenced by James McNeill Whistler’s (1834–1903) interior designs, the firm incorporated exotic decorative motifs in its tiles, embroidered hangings, painted friezes, and colored glass. Their first complete interior was done for the George Kemp residence in New York, and in 1880 they decorated the public rooms of the city’s Seventh Regiment Armory. Other prominent clients included Hamilton Fish, Henry de Forest, and John Taylor Johnston. After their final collaborative project, the Church of the Divine Paternity in New York, Candace Wheeler continued her textile work under the name of Associated Artists, and Louis C. Tiffany and Company handled decorative projects on a reduced sale.

“Tiffany devoted much of the next two decades to work in glass. His earliest practical experiments with glass had been on a limited scale with the Assocaited Artists, but now he organized an atelier, surrounded himself with a group of talented young artists, and catered not to individual clients but to architects like Stanford White and Thomas Hastings.


“In an attempt to create quality objects for a broad audience, Tiffany developed a process for producing bowls and vases of Favrile glass, which he patented in 1894. Satiny in texture, Favrile glass is iridescent with variegated colors; its forms suggest organic abstractions. Tiffany further expanded his activities and established a metalwork department, producing lamps, sconces, and chandeliers. He also did work in mosaics and between 1889 and 1893 decorated several churches in New York and New England. He exhibited a chapel, a light room, and a dark room at the World’s Columbian Exposition in 1893. Soon after, with Bing’s assistance, he displayed a group of ten windows designed by such avant-garde artists as Pierre Bonnard (1867–1947) and Paul Sérusier (1864–1927). Among the many other decorative objects made by Tiffany Studios after 1900 were enameled boxes, jewelry, tableware, and a wide assortment of house-hold items, among them clocks dishes, and trays. The expansion in the type and number of objects precipitated a change in policy: there were fewer unique objects, and well-designed matched sets, made of the finest materials, were promoted. Furthermore, Tiffany was occupied with managing his business concerns and increasingly depended on others for designs. Among the large-scale commissions his firm undertook after the turn of the century were the curtain from the National Theater in Mexico City, completed by 1911, the windows fro the Catholic cathedral in St. Louis, and a glass mosaic mural designed by Maxfield Parrish (1870–1966) fro the Curtis Publishing Company building in Philadelphia. Tiffany Studios, an outgrown of Tiffany Glass and Decorating Company, continued until 1928, but it had significantly curtailed its operation and reduced its production by World War I.

“Always conscious of his public image, Tiffany gave several lectures, the first in 1910, and financed several publications, among them his biography, written by Charles de Kay. In 1918, the artist founded the Louis Comfort Tiffany Foundation, a retreat for young artists, designers, and craftsmen, which operated out of Laurelton Hall, his home since 1905. When he died at the age of eighty-four, however, Tiffany’s accomplishments as a designer had been overshadowed by the functional aesthetic of the Bauhaus. Not until the 1950s was there a resurgence of interest in his work, spurred by an important series of exhibitions held in Europe and America.”

(Burke, Doreen Bolger, American Paintings in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Vol. III, A Catalogue of Works by Art and Artists Born between 1846 and 1864, 1980).

Museum Collections:
Allentown Art Museum, Allentown, PA
Art Gallery of South Australia, Adelaide
Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago, IL
Baltimore Museum of Art, Baltimore, MD
British Museum, London
Brooklyn Museum, Brooklyn, NY
Bruce Museum of Arts and Science, Greenwich, CT
Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh, PA
Chazen Museum of Art, Madison, WI
Chrysler Museum, Norfolk, VA
Cincinnati Art Museum, Cincinnati, OH
Cleveland Museum of Art, Cleveland, OH
Columbia Museum of Art, Columbia, SC
Currier Gallery of Art, Manchester, NH
Dallas Museum of Art, Dallas, TX
David Owsley Museum of Art, Muncie, IN
DePaul University Museum, Chicago, IL
Figge Art Museum, Davenport, IAFine Arts Museums of San Francisco, San Francisco, CA
Harvard University Art Museums, Cambridge, MA
Haworth Art Gallery, Accrington
Huntington Library, San Marino, CA
Indianapolis Museum of Art, Indianapolis, IN
Lightner Museum, St. Augustine, FL
Long Island Museum of American Art, History, and Carriages, Stony Brook, NY
Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Los Angeles, CA
Memorial Art Gallery, Rochester, NY
Memphis Brooks Museum of Art, Memphis, TN
Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, NY
Minneapolis Institute of Arts, Minneapolis, MN
Musée d’Orsay, Paris
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, MA
Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, TX
Museum of Modern Art, New York, NY
National Academy of Design Museum, New York, NY
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Philadelphia Museum of Art, Philadelphia, PA
Princeton University Art Museum, Princeton, NJ
Queens Museum of Art, Queens, NY
Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts, Norwich
San Diego Museum of Art, San Diego, CA
Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington, D.C.
Toledo Museum of Art, Toledo, OH
University of Kentucky Art Museum, Lexington, KT
Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Richmond, VA
Walters Art Museum, Baltimore, MD
Westmoreland Museum of American Art, Greensburg, PA
Wichita Art Museum, Wichita, KS

Mark Murray Fine Paintings is a New York gallery specializing in buying and selling 19th century and early 20th century artwork. 

Please contact us if you are interested in selling your Louis Comfort Tiffany paintings or other artwork from the 19th century and early 20th century.