PROVO — Most people are familiar with Tiffany & Co. for its jewelry, but Louis Comfort Tiffany, son of the company's founder, was an artist and designer who used glass as his medium and created his own brand — Tiffany Studios.
Utahns have a chance to see his creations at Brigham Young University Museum of Art's exhibit "Tiffany Glass: Painting With Color and Light," through May 5. The show is on loan from The Neustadt Collection of Tiffany Glass, which is partly housed at the Queens Museum in Queens, New York.
Made up of windows, lamps and pieces of glass leftover from when the Tiffany Studios closed in the 1930s, the collection shows off Tiffany's unique technique. While many stained glass artists painted on the glass' surface, Tiffany melted glass and mixed chemicals to create color and texture as part of the glass.
"It's one of a kind," said BYU Museum of Art curator Ashlee Whitaker. "To see these kind of artful pieces in one collection is so rare. It's a real feast for the senses. … It's not every day that you can describe works of art as 'yummy.'"
Tiffany's methods create a three-dimensional effect that make his windows and lamps look naturalistic, Whitaker said. For example, he would ripple the glass to create the effect of water or folds in clothes, and mix color to look like the veins in flower petals.
Initially, Tiffany Studios mainly designed and created stained glass for use in decorative windows. Then, the studio decided to use some leftover pieces of glass to make lamps. Over time, these became so popular that they were the lamps every wealthy American needed to decorate their homes.
One such lamp on display at BYU is the wisteria lamp, which would have originally sold for $400, the equivalent of $10,000 today. Today, experts consider these lamps not just luxury furniture but rare pieces of art, and in 2015, a wisteria lamp sold at auction for $790,000, Whitaker said.
Also included in BYU's display are Tiffany forgeries that attendees can compare to originals to discern the difference. In addition, the display showcases two ecclesiastical buildings in Utah that feature Tiffany glass windows. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints commissioned five Tiffany stained glass windows in 1892 for the interior of the Salt Lake Temple, including a window portraying the First Vision. Salt Lake's St. Mark's Episcopal Cathedral also commissioned stained glass from Tiffany in the 1910s.Comment on this story
In the 1930s, the lavish style of the Gilded Age became passé, and so it was that Austrian immigrants Egon and Hildegard Neustadt were able to purchase their first Tiffany lamp from a secondhand store in 1935 for $12.50. Tiffany Studios had closed in 1933 after Tiffany's death, but the Neustadts loved what they considered the American look of these lamps and, over time, created a collection of valuable works of art.
"It just has become this marvelous collection that is a great resource," Whitaker said. "They left quite a legacy."
If you go …
What: "Tiffany Glass: Painting With Color and Light"
Where: BYU Museum of Art, North Campus Drive, Provo
When: Open Monday and Thursday-Friday, 10 a.m.-9 p.m., Tuesday-Wednesday and Saturday, 10 a.m.-6 p.m., through May 5