Capturing the Light: Watercolors from Tiffany Studios

This March’s LX sale, Fine Arts and Antiques, offers watercolors by two of Tiffany Studios’ most prolific artists, Louis Comfort Tiffany and Frederick Wilson. Learn more about the men behind these stunning designs.

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March 10, 2023

Single Lot: Lot 68 |  Frederick Wilson for Tiffany Studios, Untitled (Studies for Stained Glass Windows)

Today, Tiffany is a name synonymous with the gold standard of American decorative arts. While Tiffany & Co. is widely recognized for producing some of the most memorable jewelry designs of the last century, its sister organization, Tiffany Studios, has a very different legacy. Active from 1878-1933, Tiffany Studios primarily produced glass: lamps, desk sets, and, perhaps unexpectedly, stained glass windows for American churches. LX: Fine Art and Antiques brings three studies for such projects, each in watercolor, to auction.

Single Lot: Lot 69 |  Louis Comfort Tiffany , Untitled (Nasturtiums) (1921)

Louis Comfort Tiffany was the son of Charles Lewis Tiffany, the founder of the jewelry company whose designs are as iconic as the fair blue color of the boxes that house them. Instead of directly following in his father’s footsteps, the younger Tiffany forged his own artistic path, making a name for himself within his father’s empire. He became an accomplished painter long before being recognized for the glass art endeavors that would inform his legacy. 

At the early age of 19, Comfort Tiffany helped found The American Society of Painters in Water Color, a harbinger of what would become a lifelong interest in watercolor painting. Although glass and watercolor seem at first blush radically different mediums to work with, they share an important characteristic: a relationship with light. 

In Untitled (Nasturtiums), lot 69 in the sale, Louis Comfort Tiffany’s sensitivity to light takes center stage. Just as it might in the case of the lamps possibly inspired by such a watercolor, light appears to dance across the flat floral forms, giving the work on paper a luminous aura. 

Single Lot: Lot 70 |  Louis Comfort Tiffany , Untitled (Design for Lampshade)

Lot 70, an untitled design for a lampshade, gleams in a similar manner. Influenced by Hudson River School painters George Innes and Samuel Colman, both of whom the artist studied under in his youth, Louis Comfort Tiffany developed a remarkable ability to capture light and color.

March 16th’s sale also offers a watercolor study by Frederick Wilson, another of Tiffany’s most esteemed artists. Wilson managed the ecclesiastical department at Tiffany Studios for nearly thirty years, designed stained glass and mosaic installations for churches across the United States. 

Art historian Diane C. Wright wrote that Wilson’s work “represents a vital component of stained glass design and, to a large extent, illustrates what stained glass looked like in American churches around the turn of the 20th century.” Like Louis Comfort Tiffany, Frederick Wilson was able to translate his understanding of light from his glass art to his watercolors. Besides being beautiful objects in their own right, these works are emblematic of a mastery that transcends medium and time. 

LX: Fine Art and Antiques is now online for pre bidding. Live bidding will begin at 11AM ET on March 16th, 2023. 

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