Louis Comfort Tiffany became the master of light at the end of the 19th century, thanks in part to the light bulb.
“He was always very forward-thinking, and his work was the celebration of light and color. He used the cutting-edge of art materials and art techniques, and he was a pioneer of opalescent glass,” said Lindsy Parrott, director and curator of the Neustadt Collection of Tiffany Glass at the Queens Museum of Art.
With the advent of electricity in the home, Tiffany had the avenue to showcase his magnificent glass work.
Sixteen of the artist’s lamps and three leaded-glass windows from the Neustadt Collection are on display at The Hyde in Glens Falls in “Tiffany Glass: Painting with Color and Light,” part of the local museum’s “Summer of Light.”
“To us, they are antiques and might seem evocative of an earlier era. But in his day, Tiffany was pioneering something very different. He created a whole new way of looking at light in the home,” said Erin B. Coe, deputy director of cultural affairs and programming at The Hyde.
The work of Tiffany Studios was revered by high society from the late 1800s through the 1920s. An innovator in the Art Nouveau and Aesthetics movements, Tiffany’s opulent designs featured innovative and patented colored glass, much of which he produced at his own Stourbridge Glass Company in Queens.
By the 1930s, the grandeur of Tiffany’s work was out of favor. The artist died in 1933, and many of his pieces were soon relegated to attics or even thrown away.
In 1935, a young doctor, Dr. Egon Neustadt, and his wife, Hildegard, bought a Tiffany desk lamp from a second-hand store. The purchase would inspire an obsession with all things Tiffany for the couple.
“He got started when
these things were priced to buy because nobody wanted them. The fact that he saw aesthetic value in them was really impressive,” Parrott said.
By the late 1950s, the art world began to recognize the achievements of Tiffany.
“He became en vogue again,” Parrot said.
Today, the Neustadt Collection of Tiffany Glass is one of the country’s leading public collections of Tiffany lamps, windows and metalwork — all acquired by the couple. It also holds a vast, one-of-a-kind collection of flat and pressed glass used by Tiffany.
For the past 50 years, Tiffany’s work has become a valued part of American art, and the pieces continue to be strong on the market.
For Parrott, the interest in Tiffany’s glass involves more than just the objects themselves.
“Indeed, we are an organization dedicated to telling the entire Tiffany story,” Parrot said.