Published: April 23, 2002
Tiffany and a Touch of Valor at the Fenimore Art Museum
COOPERSTOWN, N.Y. – “Tiffany – The Power of Light: Lamps from the Collection of The New-York Historical Society” featuring 19 lamps from the Collection of The New-York Historical Society is on exhibit at Fenimore Art Museum. Grouped by form and style, the lamps reflect the many designs produced simultaneously under the direction of Louis Comfort Tiffany (1848-1933). The exhibition closes December 29.
At the turn of the Twentieth Century, Louis Comfort Tiffany introduced his stained-glass lamps to America and the world. Unique, innovative and unlike anything the public had previously seen, these new lamps had bold-colored glass shades with geometric and floral designs and intricate bases of glass, mosaic and metal. The bright colors, fluid shapes and exotic motifs reflected the organic forms of the Art Nouveau style that was popular in Europe and America at the turn of the century. Yet it was the combination of electric lighting and Tiffany’s sense of design and color that made the lamps so strikingly original. The public adored the lamps and by 1906, Tiffany was marketing more than 125 different shade designs.
Louis Comfort Tiffany was the son of Charles Lewis Tiffany, the owner of the famous Tiffany & Co. jewelry store. Reluctant to pursue a career in the family business, Tiffany chose to pursue art. He had moderate success as a painter and soon directed his creativity toward home decoration and furnishings. In 1879, Tiffany opened the first of several design firms that fabricated objects for the home, including stained glass.
Nature’s shapes and colors inspired Tiffany in home furnishings as they had in his art and he aimed to capture nature’s subtle nuances in glass. Using his patented multi-colored Favrile glass, Tiffany created lamps with naturalistic designs that imitate the delicate shading of a flower’s petal and the soft colors of a dragonfly’s wing.
The Art of Plains Indian Warfare
Sixteen drawings by Plains Indians warriors depicting battle scenes from the late Nineteenth Century are the focus of an exhibition that will be featured through September 15 at Fenimore. The exhibition, “Touch of Valor: The Art of Plains Indian Warfare,” is curated by Sherry Brydon, curator of The Eugene and Clare Thaw Collection of North American Indian Art for the New York State Historical Association.
Plains Indian drawings have an extraordinary range of imagery and those focusing upon warfare possess an unyielding power in their documentation of military engagement. Many Plains Indians were war artists who recorded their own accomplishments and actions in battle. Most young men became warriors in their late teens, fighting with other Indian tribes over horse and hunting territories.
Prior to European contact, the ancestors of Plains warriors are believed to have documented their battle exploits on hide shirts and robes and on rock cliffs. They used a powerful and elemental art style. In the early 1830s visiting European and American artists such as Karl Bodmer and George Catlin brought new materials including watercolor, ink, pencils, paint and paper to the Plains. These academically trained artists also brought a new style of art — one that emphasized perspective and realism. Plains Indian artists were receptive to these new materials and techniques and began to experiment with them.
Plains warriors fought their most intense and decisive wars against the US Army. The federal government made many treaties with Plains Indians in the 1850s and 1860s, but often broke them a short time later. Government policy sought a railroad link between the eastern cities and the West Coast and Americans wanted access to agricultural land and mining resources. The Indians fought back for more than 20 years in an attempt to save their territories.
The federal government adopted a policy to exterminate the buffalo — the economic and spiritual mainstay of Plains Indian life — knowing that it would devastate their culture. Settlers and professional hide hunters killed the buffalo to near extinction by the 1870s. By the 1880s Plains Indians were confined to reservations. Although the Plains Indians lost their livelihoods as independent warriors and hunters, they recorded their memories of prereservations days, a time of honor and glory.
Fenimore Art Museum is on Lake Road, Route 80, one mile north of the village of Cooperstown. It is the showcase museum of the New York State Historical Association, a non-profit, private educational institution founded in 1899. Hours for the exhibition are April-May, Tuesday-Sunday, 10 am to 4 pm; June-September, daily, 10 am to 5 pm. For information, 888-547-1450, or visit www.fenimoreartmuseum.org.
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