Opening: October 2002
Location: The American Wing, first floor
The Metropolitan Museum of Art will open a new permanent exhibition space this fall, devoted to the full range of work by Louis Comfort Tiffany (1848-1933), who was one of the most versatile and talented American artists of his time. Part of the recently named Deedee Wigmore Galleries, the installation will highlight the Museum's preeminent Tiffany collection and will feature some 70 stunning examples of his windows, lamps, furniture, mosaics, blown Favrile glass vases, pottery, enamelwork, and jewelry. Works from the early 1890s to the early 1920s will be on view. A selection of design drawings from the Museum's holdings of more than 400 works on paper by the Tiffany Studios will be shown. Because of their fragile nature and sensitivity to light, the drawings will be displayed on a rotating schedule.
Among the highlights of the installation will be several works that have not previously been on view. A recently acquired Queen Anne's lace hair ornament, measuring a mere 3-1/2 inches in diameter, is a tour-de-force of Tiffany's earliest work in jewelry. Incorporating silver, copper, opals, enamel, demantoid garnets (transparent green), and garnets in a surprisingly naturalistic representation of the fragile bloom, the ornament was made for the Louisiana Purchase Exposition in St. Louis in 1904. With the acquisition of this important exhibition piece, the Metropolitan's holdings of Tiffany's earliest artistic jewelry were rendered the most comprehensive collection of such works in the world.
A recent gift, a Favrile glass mosaic panel (ca. 1891), is the prototype for the frieze panels that decorated the Fifth Avenue mansion of Louisine and Henry Osborne Havemeyer, Tiffany's most important patrons. The panel will be shown along with furniture and a leaded-glass window that were also part of this notable commission.
Flower-form vases from ca. 1894-1910 will be shown in a window-like vitrine, reminiscent of a display conceived by Emily de Forest, daughter of the Metropolitan Museum Trustee and President Robert W. de Forest, for the Tiffany-designed room in her own home in New York's Washington Square. The Metropolitan has one of the most significant holdings of Tiffany's Favrile glass vases, including many objects from the personal collection of the artist himself and from the Havemeyers.
Today, the Tiffany name is most closely associated with Tiffany & Co., the internationally renowned jewelry and silver retailer established in New York in 1837 by Charles L. Tiffany. But it was his son, Louis Comfort Tiffany, who crafted a most incredible career – which spanned nearly half a century, from the mid-1870s to the mid-1920s – as one of the most remarkable decorative artists of his time. Although he started his professional life as a painter, the decorative arts quickly became his métier – and the means by he achieved international renown.
The Tiffany installation complements the adjoining Deedee Wigmore Gallery devoted to works from the Aesthetic and Arts and Crafts movements of the late 19th and early 20th century. Located on the first floor of the Museum's American Wing, between two period rooms – the McKim, Mead, and White Stair Hall and the Frank Lloyd Wright Room – the organization of the galleries provides the visitor with a complete chronological and stylistic progression of 19th-century American decorative arts.
The opening of the Deedee Wigmore Galleries continues a close association between the Museum and long-time supporters, Barrie A. and Deedee Wigmore. In addition to
endowing these galleries, the Wigmores, who are members of the Chairman's Council and the William Cullen Bryant Fellows, have supported the Museum's mission in diverse ways. In the area of education, they funded two symposia organized in conjunction with special exhibitions – "Tokens of Affection" in 1990 and "Herter Brothers" in 1995. They have also helped the Museum acquire significant new works for its collection of late 19th- and early 20th-century American decorative arts, including the hair ornament mentioned above.
Because of the size and breadth of the Museum's holdings, numerous examples of Tiffany's Favrile glass and several architectural works – including the entrance loggia from Laurelton Hall, a mosaic column, a mosaic fountain, and four stained-glass windows – will continue to be displayed in The Charles Engelhard Court and The Henry R. Luce Center for the Study of American Art. A major exhibition on Laurelton Hall, Tiffany's extraordinary summer residence, is planned for fall 2006.
A variety of educational programs, including gallery talks and films for the general public, is planned. A public lecture by Alice Cooney Frelinghuysen will take place on Friday, November 1, at 6:00 p.m. in the Uris Auditorium. In addition, a Family Guide will be offered. These programs are free with Museum admission.
The Web site for the Metropolitan (www.metmuseum.org) will feature the new gallery.
The installation is organized by Alice Cooney Frelinghuysen, the Anthony W. and Lulu C. Wang Curator of American Decorative Arts.
June 3, 2002