Sunday, May 13, 2012

Artistic Boutiques,Tiffany and the "Y"

The opulently adorned artist's studio was a new phenomenon in late nineteenth-century America. Artists traveled widely, not just to Europe but also to more distant countries whose cultures were new and tantalizing to them. They brought back art objects, artifacts and curios acquired for their artistic interest and often for use as props in their own works of art. 
Tenth Street Studio - William Merritt Chase  
The studio of the painter William Merritt Chase in the  Tenth Street Studios building held a dazzling array of beautiful, exotic and curious things massed for visual effect. These profusely decorated studios functioned as a stage set against which the artist could perform - plus they created seductive environments for potential clients. Louis Comfort Tiffany followed this trend by decorating his first painting studio with an eclectic assemblage of textiles of diverse origins draped on the furniture and hung on the walls, Oriental carpets, Chinese and Japanese vases, and colonial furniture. The exotic flavor of his studio's decoration - his very first interior - was to characterize the interiors he designed for his own use over the next several decades. 
YMCA - French Second Empire-style building designed by Renwick & Sands - 1869
In 1869 Tiffany secured a studio for himself in the newly built five-story headquarters of the New York City chapter of the Young Men's Christian Association( Association Building). Included in the building were reception rooms, reading rooms, parlors and dressing rooms. 
YMCA - lecture room - 1869
There was a two-story, 1,640-seat lecture room, as well as smaller lecture rooms, a 12,000-volume, triple-height library, gymnasium, bowling alleys, baths and a concert hall. The fourth and fifth floors of the building, located at 52 East Twenty-third Street, at Fourth Avenue (now Park Avenue South), were set aside for forty artists' studios. 
National Academy of Design designed by architect P. B. Wight in Venetian Gothic style - 1863
 It was located in the burgeoning artistic center of the city, directly across the street from the National Academy of Design (demolished). 
National Academy of Design designed by architect P. B. Wight in Venetian Gothic style - 1863

National Academy of Design - floor plans - designed by architect P. B. Wight in Venetian Gothic style - 1863

The location fostered a sense of community among the artists with common spaces available for lectures as well as a reception room on the fifth floor that served as a picture gallery where the artists could exhibit their work and from which doors opened into the adjoining studios. 

At the Association Building(demolished) Tiffany selected for his studio a space on the top floor - at the end of a long corridor - where he could take advantage of a skylight. Tiffany's studio was not the typical sort - at the door a brass manikin squatted out from a panel doing duty as a knocker. Tiffany's studio included a stairway leading to the roof where he posed his models in the sunlight. Each of the Association Building's studios had a separate bedroom and Tiffany lived there prior to his first marriage in 1872. It was reported at least one glass experiment he undertook in his studio ended explosively.

Louis Comfort Tiffany's First Studio - engraving by John Moran
***Below is text from John Moran's "New York Studios" -  published in 1880 - third in a series - describing Tiffany's decorating style. Article followed the description of artist John Henry Dolph's studio(painter of cats).***

"After the sober Flemish scene that we have been looking at, the oriental splendor of the next studio that we enter fairly dazzles. Not merely is the studio marvelously designed and decorated, but the entire large flat, with its many rooms and devious corridors, is in unison; and here dwells Mr. L. C. TIFFANY, who, although a young man, is one of the leading American artists, and whose breadth of treatment and sense of color have long made him conspicuous among his fellows. For two years he has been uninterruptedly engaged in beautifying his home, and he has by no means completed his congenial task. Wood-carving is Mr. Tiffany's pet weakness, and on every hand one finds most elaborate and beautiful specimens. His various "finds" in this direction he has utilized architecturally for purposes to which many of them were never meant to be devoted. The studio has, over half of it, a low ceiling entirely of carved wood; from the shadow of this the artist can look out into the other half, which is lit by a skylight. At the far end of this portion a staircase leads to a sort of corridor overlooking the studio, and this in turn by another stairway to the roof, on which Mr. Tiffany poses his models in the sunlight. The straight pillars which support this balcony or corridor are simple in design, but the entire face of it is composed of the most beautiful specimens of wood-carving the writer has ever seen. The architectural design and entire spirit are Oriental, although the various component portions of the whole are of different workmanship. The interstices are filled with rich stained glass, and the construction is very exquisite, the panels, which are many, being arranged and alternated with most rich and harmonious effect. Opposite the entrance is a window on which Mr. Tiffany has from time to time daubed the scrapings of his palette with a view to the achievement of accidental effects. These he has got so happily that one can see suggested in the various panes, commencing at the lower ones, the sea-depths with their rocks and parti-coloured growths, then the shore, then the earth with pools and trees; and above the sky, blending into all tints from delicate greys 
and blues, through rich purples and reds, into sombre black. From this design (if one can so call anything arrived at by hap-hazard), the artist is having a stained-glass window made. The studio abounds in stuffs and curios, although Mr. Tiffany cannot veil his beautifully panelled walls and floor from sight by many hangings or rugs. Behind, in the shadow, stands an old clock exquisitely chased and inlaid in Oriental pattens. Here are also a terra-cotta bust of Niobe, massive Persian lamps of chased and cut brass, rich silk robes, and numerous pictures. The minutest details on all hands are beautiful and full of interest, although some might think that Mr. Tiffany pushes his decorative ideas to an extreme, and that the sense of utility and comfort were sacrificed to elaboration and beauty. At all events, this work is evidently a labour of love to the workman, and his achievements must be acknowledged to be of high artistic and decorative value. One sees here a veritable “house beautiful," and is very loath to leave it. However, allons mes amis!"

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