Monday, March 8, 2010

Tiffany Glass: A Passion for Colour

February 12-May 2, 2010 at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts

When you enter one of the dimly-lit, interconnected rooms of the exhibit Tiffany Glass: A Passion for Colour at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, your eyes are immediately drawn to the glowing jewels that dot the open space like pegs on the face of a Lite-Brite. Dazzling lamps cast kaleidoscopic shadows on waist-high islands throughout the exhibit—allowing the visitor to truly appreciate the fine detail and artistry of
each of Tiffany's creations up close. Ms. Rosalind Pepall, chief curator of the MMFA exhibit, has done an admirable job establishing a connection between art and theme. Each section of the exhibition focuses not only on specific periods in Tiffany’s career, but also on the sources of inspiration that impacted his work.

The seeds of Louis Comfort Tiffany's genius were planted at a young age. He spent his early years in his father Charles Lewis Tiffany's store on Fifth Avenue in New York City. He was mesmerized by the colourful precious stones that dotted the jewelry on display. Tiffany started out as a painter—some of his work is on display
throughout the exhibition—and then shifted his focus to interior design. He later turned to glasswork—taking his inspiration from the mosaics and stained glass windows he saw in churches while traveling as a young man. He was fascinated by the material’s malleability and the way light changed as it shone through a piece of glass. Tiffany found that inspiration abounded in the environment around him. Otherwise mundane objects—like the empty, green bottles of wine that littered a dinner table or the distinct curves of a pineapple—could inspire a piece.

Magnolia Window designed by
Agnes Northrop c. 1900, Tiffany Studios

A theme that emerges concurrently to those explicitly emphasized in the exhibition is that things are not necessarily what they seem to be. A stained glass window can mask an otherwise dreary view and the underside of one of the brilliant lamps is rather plain. Moreover, Tiffany did not design all of the pieces on display. It is only recently that these other designers were rightly given credit for their work. The exhibit underscores the important contributions both Clara Driscoll and Agnes Northrop made to Tiffany’s firm. This offers the visitor a different perspective—one that can perhaps be compared to the way things are altered when looking at the world through a mottled piece of glass.

For admission prices and opening hours:

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