January 27, 2007

"Louis Comfort Tiffany and Laurelton Hall"

View of Laurelton Hall, 1919
From Stanley Lothrop "Louis Comfort Tiffany Foundation," in
American Magazine of Art, Vol. 11: 49

Most of us have seen countless examples of the colorful glass creations with which the Tiffany name is most associated. Many of us have visited the eponymous luxury goods emporium on Fifth Avenue in New York City. But very few, myself included, are familiar with the country estate designed and decorated by Louis Comfort Tiffany, the son of Charles Louis Tiffany, in 1905. To this end, the exhibition currently on view at the Metropolitan Museum of Art is a truly delightful surprise.

Louis Comfort Tiffany (1848-1933) was a renaissance man. Not content merely to continue in his father's jewelry firm, he expanded his horizons, seeking new ways to create and use stained glass, and reaching further afield in the decorative and fine arts. Beginning with his Manhattan apartment on East 26th Street, Tiffany sought to create total Aestheic environments creating both the decor and the furnishings to complete the look. Moving uptown to Madison and 72nd Street, gave him 2 entire floors to transform into an exotic private sanctuary. But his masterpiece was Laurelton Hall, a 600 acre estate overlooking Cold Spring Harbor in Oyster Bay, New York.

Featuring 84 rooms on 8 levels with every conceivable amenity from stables to a chapel, Laurelton Hall was his dreamhouse. Here he was able to install the most magnificent of his leaded glass windows, the most luscious of gardens and the most elegant of furnishings. It was, by all accounts, extraordinary both inside and out. Sadly, the house was destroyed by fire in 1957 and what little remains is now housed at the Charles Hosmer Morse Museum of American Art in Winter Park, Florida.

Until the 20th of May, 2007, visitors to "Louis Comfort Tiffany and Laurelton Hall -- An Artist's Country Estate" can catch a glimpse of how this gifted man lived. This exhibition beautifully recreates 3 of the rooms and brings together an exceptional selection of the objects and furnishings that were once housed there. The real surprise in this show is not how gorgeous the windows and vases are, but how varied his collecting was. Tiffany's personal prizes of Asian and American Indian artifacts are displayed next to the Favrile glass, pottery and paintings that we more typically expect to see. All together, these works create a portrait of a man with great curiosity, intelligence and style. He was a true original.

SOROLLA Y BASTIDA, Joaquin (1863-1923)
"Louis Comfort Tiffany", 1911

No comments: