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A&E >  Art

Louis Comfort Tiffany exhibit comes to the MAC

UPDATED: Thu., Sept. 30, 2021

Celebrating the breadth of work of one of the most popular artists of the early 20th century, the Northwest Museum of Arts and Culture will begin showing its latest exhibition, “Louis Comfort Tiffany: Treasures From the Driehaus Collection,” this weekend.

Organized by the Richard H. Driehaus Museum, the exhibit will feature more than 60 pieces of Tiffany’s work, including stained-glass windows, lamps, candelabras, vases and other accessories from the Driehaus Collection, many of which have never before been shown together.

The exhibit, which will run through Feb. 13, officially opens Sunday, but members will be able to preview the collection Saturday.

Driehaus (rhymes with “tree house”), a retired investor, was an avid art collector, but his Tiffany collection, perhaps the largest collection of Tiffany artworks in the world, was extraordinary, Northwest Museum of Arts and Culture executive director Wes Jessup said.

“Spokane’s quote-unquote gilded era, the early 20th century, coincided with the height of Tiffany’s production, so there was a lot of Tiffany coming to Spokane during those years,” Jessup said, explaining how the museum has come to hold many of the Tiffany pieces in its own collection.

Many of these pieces have ended up at the museum over the years, but they can also be found installed in some of the grand old historic houses in town, particularly in Browne’s Addition. The Patsy Clark Mansion, for example, is home to an “extraordinary” Tiffany window.

The son of Tiffany & Co. founder Charles Lewis Tiffany, Louis Comfort Tiffany was able to train as a painter in Paris and was part of the National Academy of Design in New York City.

Growing up around his father designing jewelry and working with precious metals and glass, Tiffany developed a special sensibility for mixing media. He wanted something “beyond just oil on canvas,” Jessup said.

Weaving that background together with his formal training as a painter, Tiffany began “creating things that were really truly innovative in their time,” Jessup said. “Nobody was doing quite what he was doing … experimenting with different glass mixtures … incorporating glass into design in a way that hadn’t always been used.”

“I think it speaks to all ages,” Jessup said. “With the colors and some of the scenes and narratives that he has in his work … this is a really ideal family show, (and) a great date night exhibition.”

Tiffany’s approach incorporating elegant, organic lines and the kind of long, sinuous forms common in Art Nouveau into glass and metalwork, among other media, would situate him as one of the great practitioners of that style, leading him to “achieve a level of fame that had never been granted to an artist in this country,” Jessup said.

“I mean, really, he was … taking fine art into some new territory … helping to define a whole era.”

Masking will be required inside the museum. For more information, visit northwestmuseum.org.

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