The Charles Hosmer - Morse Museum of American Art

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Tiffany Studios Designs

October 17, 2017 through September 22, 2019

Inspired by the aesthetic vision of Louis Comfort Tiffany (1848–1933) and with his careful guidance, talented designers and artisans produced some of the most stunning and innovative decorative objects of his and our own time.

An artist’s preparatory sketches shed light on aspects of finished works that range from purely technical concerns such as composition to larger issues of artistic intention and meaning. But though preliminary artistic records are critical to scholarship, this exhibition is meant to present objects interesting in themselves.

It is rewarding to focus on the spontaneous and vital qualities of the preliminaries, which often express an artistic idea in a dreamlike way. They reveal how an idea might look as it emerges partially formed from the artist’s imagination—that undefinable place in the mind without borders or limits. A baptismal font, for example, sits on a blank page like an apparition. While the ornament is conceptually present and in color, it is approximate, ethereal, transitory. It awaits realization.

In the ecclesiastical designs, the biblical and angelic figures are perhaps even more heavenly in watercolor than they will be in glass. The soft landscapes invite the viewer into a utopian vision. In later stages of development, preliminaries grow in detail and precision. A photograph of a dragonfly becomes a copper jigsaw puzzle that guides glass cutters in the final embodiment of a richly colored dragonfly lamp screen or shade. Seeing one or more of the preliminary stages next to the final object is instructive on process, but preparatory works also convey the powerful human component of creativity. They may be the most expressive link to the individual personality behind the finished objects.


  • Window design
  • Window design, c. 1910
  • Rosehill Mausoleum, Chicago
  • Watercolor on paper
  • Tiffany Studios, New York City, 1902–32
  • Marks: #3880 / [illegible] / Suggestion No. 2 for / Landscape Window Rosehill Mausoleum / Approved / [signed: Louis C. Tiffany]
  • (62-024)