Windows and Workshops – a Tiffany Story

If you haven’t visited the Tiffany Gallery at AAC, then you’re overlooking a fascinating piece of Arlington Public Art’s Permanent Collection.  Natural light filters through three large stained glass windows creating a timeless and mystical ambiance in a gallery created to highlight the works of some of Arlington’s most talented contemporary artists.

Louis Comfort Tiffany Windows in AAC's Tiffany Gallery

Louis Comfort Tiffany Windows in AAC’s Tiffany Gallery

The windows were created by the Tiffany Studios, a company begun in the late 19th century by the renowned artist Louis Comfort Tiffany. Tiffany was a huge supporter of the arts, so how fitting that his windows would be a permanent part of a building dedicated to presenting and supporting local artists and their work.

Tiffany was born in the month of February, and in celebration we are hosting a Tiffany Workshop.  On Saturday, February 22, kids ages 7 to 14 will learn about Louis Comfort Tiffany and the Tiffany Windows before creating their own Tiffany-inspired artworks.

Looking north at the front of Abbey Mausoleum, a private mausoleum at the corner of Hobson Drive and Military Road in Arlington County, Virginia, in the United States.

Looking north at the front of Abbey Mausoleum, a private mausoleum at the corner of Hobson Drive and Military Road in Arlington County, Virginia, in the United States.

We also thought that you’d be interested to know some of the history of our windows.  The windows were originally part of a collection of 13 at the  Arlington Abbey Mausoleum.  They had been boarded over and long forgotten as the mausoleum fell into a state of disrepair.

By 2000, the government had decided to demolish the condemned building and began to move the remains of the deceased to other burial sites, at which time they gave the county an opportunity to rescue anything they felt was worth salvaging.

At this time, amidst great shock and excitement, the windows were discovered.  Six of them were damaged beyond repair and were taken apart to help restore the other seven.  Today, three of the windows are installed here at the Arlington Arts Center and the other four are installed at the Westover Library.

Installation of the Tiffany Windows into AAC's Tiffany Gallery, 2004

Installation of the Tiffany Windows into AAC’s Tiffany Gallery, 2004

At an early age, Tiffany was exposed to beautiful works of art.  His love of glass began when he was just a child having become enthralled by the jewel-like qualities found in the glass collection of Edward Chandler Moore, his father’s silversmith.

His family supported Tiffany’s growing interest in the arts, allowing him at the age of 17 to travel under the guidance of George Inness (1825-1894), a famous American Hudson River School artist.  During this time, along with becoming a landscape painter, his fascination of glass and glass making continued to grow, as he was exposed to Gothic stained glass windows, Persian glass and Romeo cameo glass.

Color is to the eye what music is to the ear.

– Louis Comfort Tiffany

Additionally, Tiffany was also part of the Aesthetic Movement, which aimed to bring a higher status to the decorative arts.  In the 1870’s, Tiffany’s artistic interests turned to interior design.  He designed spaces in the White House and the Connecticut home of Mark Twain.

It was also during this time that Tiffany’s love of glass and design inspired him to experiment with glass-making.  At the time, his contemporaries were in the practice of creating colored glass by applying enamel to clear glass.  Tiffany didn’t like the results of this technique, saying that it darkened the glass.

Matthew Fishel's piece titled: Relaunch.  A mixed media exhibition made specifically to illustrate the history of the Tiffany windows for AAC's 2013 Fall SOLOS exhibition

Matthew Fishel’s piece titled: Relaunch. A mixed media exhibition made specifically to illustrate the history of the Tiffany windows for AAC’s 2013 Fall SOLOS exhibition

His experimenting resulted in a kind of hand-made, iridescent colored glass, which he trademarked as Favrile. By 1887 he had established the Tiffany Studios, which began to manufacture leaded glass windows, lamps, mosaics, glassware, enamels, ceramics, metalwork, furniture and textiles.  His works of art are both functional and beautiful and grace homes, buildings and museums around the world.

How wonderful that one of those buildings happens to be your community arts center!  Sign up today for the Tiffany Workshop, and when you drop off the little glass artists, be sure and take a peek at our beautiful Tiffany stained glass windows.

written by AAC volunteer Michelle D. Williams, MA in Art History and Museum Studies

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