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Louis Comfort Tiffany and Laurelton Hall - An Artist's Country Estate

November 21, 2006 - May 20, 2007


Between 1902 and 1905, on more than 600 acres overlooking Long Island Sound, the noted American artist and designer Louis Comfort Tiffany (1848-1933) built his dream home, an extraordinary country estate called Laurelton Hall. Every aspect of the project was designed by Tiffany himself, from the exotic 84-room, eight-level house surrounded by fountains, pools, and terraced gardens to the stables, tennis courts, greenhouses, chapel, studio, and art gallery also located on the property. Often cited as Tiffany's most important work, Laurelton Hall was destroyed by fire in 1957. Surviving architectural elements and windows salvaged by Hugh F. and Jeannette G. McKean are now part of the collections of the museum Mrs. McKean founded, The Charles Hosmer Morse Museum of American Art in Winter Park, Florida. The monumental four-column loggia with its colorful glass and pottery floral capitals was saved from Laurelton Hall and has graced the American Wing's Charles Engelhard Court since 1980, a gift of Mr. and Mrs. McKean.

In November 2006, The Metropolitan Museum of Art will present the exhibition Louis Comfort Tiffany and Laurelton Hall - An Artist's Country Estate, an unparalleled opportunity to examine closely for the first time some 250 outstanding works by one of America's finest designers at the pinnacle of his career. Featured in the exhibition will be numerous works from the Morse Museum, which have rarely been seen outside Winter Park, shown alongside works from a number of private and public collections, including The Metropolitan Museum of Art.

"Laurelton Hall serves as a metaphor for Tiffany's art in other media -- his lamps, jewelry, vases, pottery, enamels, and windows," commented Alice Cooney Frelinghuysen, the Metropolitan Museum's Anthony W. and Lulu C. Wang Curator of American Decorative Arts, who is also the curator of the exhibition. "It represented Tiffany's quest for a utopian artistic space and his ultimate pursuit of beauty in the natural world."

The exhibition will be arranged thematically, with the first gallery providing an introduction to Tiffany's own early domestic interiors and subsequent galleries leading the viewer through individual rooms at Laurelton Hall.

Although few examples survive of Tiffany's initial forays into interior design, several noteworthy objects that he created for his own New York City residences will be brought together in the first gallery of the exhibition. Tiffany featured many of these works, which he designed for his early homes, in the artistic environment of Laurelton Hall.

The exhibition will then feature some of the highlights of the house. The central Fountain Court, a magnificent homage to the fountains of the Alhambra in Spain, will be recalled through surviving fragments and a display of Favrile glass vases, including the over four-foot-high teardrop-shaped vase that served as the central fountain.

Tiffany filled the rooms at Laurelton Hall with examples of his own works -- windows, glassware, pottery, enamels, oil paintings, and watercolors. The galleries will feature a selection of this collection, glowing mouth-blown glass vessels, shimmering enamel objects inspired by nature, as well as a career-long sampling of his works on paper and canvas. The exhibition will show works by other artists, including the luminous portrait that Tiffany commissioned of himself from his contemporary Joaquín Sorrolla y Bastida, depicting the artist in his beloved Laurelton Hall gardens, seated at his easel. In addition, his extensive holdings of Asian and Native American art will be evoked through original works from his collection or similar examples drawn from the Metropolitan's collections.

The Daffodil Terrace was an extraordinary outdoor room adjoining the Laurelton Hall dining room. For the first time since their removal from the estate, surviving elements -- faceted marble columns topped with capitals ornamented with profusions of daffodils in glass, polychrome wood, and terracotta relief decoration from the coffered ceiling, and iridescent tiles bearing the motifs of branches and leaves of a pear tree -- will be re-assembled to evoke the terrace's original structure. In addition, the exhibition will include rare architectural drawings -- floor plans, elevations, and a large site plan -- as well as a wooden model of the Islamic-style turreted smokestack, revealing the scope and breadth of Tiffany's artistic vision.

A vignette of the dining room, with original furniture, also will be included. Every detail of this room was designed or selected by Tiffany to harmonize perfectly, and the ensemble was a total work of art, or Gesamtkunstwerk. In the exhibition, the original setting and ambience will be suggested by such elements as the jewel-toned blue medallion rug, the magnificent leaded-glass ceiling ornament that complemented it, and the marble and glass-mosaic chimney breast. A series of six of Tiffany's spectacular Wisteria transom windows will echo their original positions in the room.

The final gallery will evoke the "forest room," or living hall, at Laurelton. There Tiffany installed a selection of his superb exhibition windows, a veritable retrospective of his work in stained glass, from his 1879 Eggplant window to the magnificent Four Seasons panels that were exhibited at the Exposition Universelle of 1900 in Paris. The spectacular lighting fixture from this room -- in which three "turtle-back" shades and two orbs of a rich emerald hue hang from fixtures that he originally embellished with Japanese sword guards -- will also be shown, a testament to Tiffany's originality and creative genius.



The exhibition will be accompanied by a book of the same title, by Alice Cooney Frelinghuysen, with contributions by Richard Guy Wilson (Professor of Architectural History, University of Virginia), Elizabeth Hutchinson (Assistant Professor of American Art History, Barnard College/Columbia University), Julia Meech (Consultant, Christie's, and independent scholar), Jennifer Perry Thalheimer (Collections Manager, The Charles Hosmer Morse Museum of American Art), and Barbara Veith (Research Associate, Metropolitan Museum). Featuring new digital photography by Joseph Coscia, Jr., Associate Chief Photographer in Charge of Collections Photography, of the Metropolitan Museum's Photograph Studio, the catalogue will be available in the Museum's bookshop. The book will be published by The Metropolitan Museum of Art and distributed by Yale University Press.



Louis Comfort Tiffany and Laurelton Hall - An Artist's Country Estate was organized by The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, in collaboration with The Charles Hosmer Morse Museum of American Art, Winter Park, Florida. The exhibition is organized at the Metropolitan Museum by Alice Cooney Frelinghuysen with Barbara Veith, Research Associate, and Monica Obniski, Research Assistant, Department of American Decorative Arts.


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