Published: November 19, 2002
WINTER PARK, FLA. – On February 4, The Morse Museum of American Art will open “: Tiffany Lamps and Lighting,” the museum’s most comprehensive exhibition ever of Tiffany lamps and lighting from its permanent collection.
The exhibition, on view through January 4, 2004, will include more than 40 Tiffany lamps that taken together illustrate Tiffany’s visually dramatic and innovative design achievement in an era when electric light was poised to revolutionize the way we see. They will include examples of rare and prize-winning designs; selections made for his own home, Laurelton Hall; and lamps of virtually every sort: table or desktop, standing, hanging and wall-mounted.
Original Tiffany Studios lamp catalogs, watercolor designs, archival photographs, prints from glass-plate negatives, flat lampshade sample pattern displays and models showing phases of lamp fabrication will further illuminate Tiffany’s vast and fabulously successful enterprise.
As early as 1885, Louis Comfort Tiffany was praised for spectacular jewel-like blown glass shades installed at the Lyceum Theatre in New York City. Together with Thomas Edison, he had successfully produced the city’s first dependable, uniform and beautiful electrified lighting fixtures.
Lamps from Tiffany Studios’ early production were fitted with blown glass shades in one piece or simple geometric leaded-glass shades made with pieces of glass bound together with copper foil. In 1899, he introduced the more familiar lampshades of brightly colored leaded glass. By 1905, at its peak of production, Tiffany Studios made almost 400 different lamp designs and combinations in subtle color variations and employed nearly 200 craftsmen. His mosaic patterned lampshades, artful bouquets of brilliantly colored glass, remain a universally recognized high point in design achievement.
Tiffany’s fame was international. At the World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago in 1893, Tiffany won 52 gold medals, including a medal for the artful design of an electrolier — a large electrified cross that hung from the interior of his mosaic encrusted chapel now installed at the Morse.
Other prize winners included the Dragonfly lamp at the Exposition Universelle in Paris in 1900 and the Wisteria and Pond Lily lamps at the First Exposition of Modern Decorative Arts in Turin in 1902. In his lamps, Tiffany’s fascination with color, nature and light coalesced, and through them he gave many Americans an opportunity to join in his own “pursuit of beauty.”
The museum’s exhibitions are drawn from the collection built by Jeannette McKean (1909-1989), who founded the museum in 1942, and her husband Hugh McKean (1908-1989), director of the museum until his death. The couple assembled over a period of almost 50 years extensive holdings of Tiffany objects — what is today the world’s most comprehensive collection of the designer’s work — along with American paintings, art pottery and decorative arts of the late-Nineteenth and early-Twentieth Centuries.
Through May, museum hours are 9:30 am to 8 pm Friday; 9:30 am to 4 pm Tuesday through Thursday and Saturday; and 1 to 4 pm Sunday. Admission is $3. From June through August, the museum closes at 4 pm on Friday. The museum is at 445 North Park Avenue. For information, 407-645-5311.
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