Tiffany glass sparkles at Winterthur exhibit

A reading lamp featuring a clematis design is one of the pieces on display in 'Tiffany Glass: Painting with Color and Light,' an exhibit that opens Saturday, Sept. 5, at the Winterthur Museum.

For many, Tiffany conjures up striking images of intricate glass creations while others may link the word to glittery diamonds or high-end merchandise, packaged in signature blue boxes. Movie fans may be more likely to envision an elegant Audrey Hepburn in “Breakfast at Tiffany’s,” a beloved 1961 romantic comedy.

'Grape Vine and Lemon Tree with Trellis' greets visitors as they enter the 'TiffanyGlass: Painting with Color and Light' exhibit at the Winterthur Museum.

'Grape Vine and Lemon Tree with Trellis' greets visitors as they enter the 'Tiffany Glass: Painting with Color and Light' exhibit at the Winterthur Museum.

A new set of exhibits at Winterthur Museum, Garden & Library, which opens on Saturday, Sept. 5, aims to address all of those associations.

The primary display, “Tiffany Glass: Painting with Color and Light," focuses on showcasing the artistry of Louis Comfort Tiffany (1848-1933), the son of Charles Lewis Tiffany, who co-founded Tiffany and Company. From acclaimed windows to coveted lamps, the exhibit includes nearly 100 works.

It also highlights some of the key figures at the Tiffany Studios, who made essential contributions to the windows and lamps: chemist Arthur J. Nash (1849-1934) and leading designers Agnes Northrop (1857-1953), Clara Driscoll (1861-1944), and Frederick Wilson (1858-1932).

A secondary exhibit, “Tiffany: The Color of Luxury,” offers a playful look at the retail operation. As Hepburn’s character in “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” opined: “Tiffany’s. Isn’t it wonderful? See what I mean, how nothing bad could happen to you in a place like this?”

Catharine Dann Roeber, Winterthur’s assistant professor of decorative arts and material culture, said the Tiffany exhibit represented a good fit for the museum, which broke records last year with its “Costumes of Downton Abbey” exhibit.

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An educational display illustrates the intricate process of constructing a Tiffany lampshade.

She said preparations for the Tiffany show began while the Downton display was still dazzling crowds; so the fact that the new exhibit had already been organized by the Neustadt Collection of Tiffany Glass in New York City was particularly appealing. Moreover, it offered Winterthur another glimpse into the opulent style familiar to its founder, Henry Francis du Pont, albeit on a smaller scale than the Downton display.

Roeber said that unlike Ergon Neustadt, the founder of the Neustadt Collection who began acquiring Tiffany lamps in 1935, du Pont did not collect Tiffany glass. “It wasn’t his aesthetic,” she said. But many other connections between du Pont and Tiffany exist.

Landscape is a leaded glass and bronze hanging shade from 1905 that is included in the Winterthur exhibit.

'Landscape' is a leaded glass and bronze hanging shade from 1905 that is included in the Winterthur exhibit.

Louis Comfort Tiffany called himself “a colorist trained as a painter,” sharing du Pont’s view about the importance of hues. Tiffany’s fascination with the interplay of light and color on canvas continued when he switched to a new medium: opalescent glass. Using a variety of innovative techniques, Tiffany manipulated the glass to achieve impressionistic effects, Roeber said.

She said that when du Pont was amassing the collections of furniture and accessories that anchor the museum, he often purchased items from Tiffany Studios. And when those assorted rugs and tapestries needed to be fixed or cleaned, Tiffany Studio employees would get the job, she said.

Poinsettia is another Tiffany hanging shade collected by Neustadt.

'Poinsettia' is another Tiffany hanging shade collected by Ergon Neustadt.

Neustadt apparently shared du Pont’s penchant for ensuring the longevity of his treasures. In 1967, Neustadt wisely purchased the flat and pressed glass left over from the closing of the Tiffany Studios in the late 1930s. The unprecedented holding of about 275,000 pieces of glass means that any repairs can be made with the right materials. About 75 pieces of opalescent flat glass from the Tiffany Studios workshop are included in the Winterthur exhibit.

Continuing its tradition of providing entertaining education, Winterthur includes illustrations of how leaded-glass shades are fabricated and a primer on the types of glass, ranging from confetti to hammered. The exhibit even offers a lesson on fraud detection. Three fake Tiffany lamps are displayed, along with tips on how to spot them.

The 'Tiffany: The Color of Luxury' exhibit focuses on  items featured by the high-end retailer.

The 'Tiffany: The Color of Luxury' exhibit focuses on items familiar to patrons of the high-end retailer.

Roeber said that the second exhibit, which includes one of Louis Comfort Tiffany’s paintings, grew out of the knowledge that the Tiffany name connotes more than stained glass. About 100 objects and graphics illustrate the relationship between the Tiffany companies and the rise of modern luxury retailing in America. Jewelry, silver wedding gifts, fine stationery, and other more eclectic objects such as silver toothpaste-tube turners and silver telephone dialers are featured.

Both “Tiffany Glass: Painting with Color and Light” and “Tiffany: The Color of Luxury,” which run through Jan. 3, are included in the general admission price. Special events and lectures for members and the public will be offered during the duration of the exhibits. For updates and more information, visit the Winterthur website, winterthur.org.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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About Kathleen Brady Shea

Kathleen Brady Shea, a nearly lifelong area resident, has been reporting on local news for several decades, including 19 years at the Philadelphia Inquirer. She believes that journalists provide a vital watchdog service in the community, and she embraces that commitment. In addition to unearthing news, she also enjoys digging up dirt in her garden, a hobby that frequently fosters Longwood Gardens envy. Along with her husband, Pete, she lives in a historic residence near the Brandywine Battlefield, a property that is also home to a sheep, a goat, and a passel of fish.

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