Sunday, April 18, 2010

Tiffany in Florida

This weekend I was in Orlando for the inaugural University of Central Florida Book Festival (a big thank-you to the organizers for the invitation and the hospitality), and I took advantage of the proximity to the town of Winter Park to visit the Charles Hosmer Morse Museum of American Art, which I've wanted to visit since I moved here nearly nine years ago and somehow just never made it. Boy, have I been missing out! The Morse is an absolutely delightful museum, specializing in late nineteenth-early twentieth century American art, and in particular on the art of Louis Comfort Tiffany. The museum claims to have the most comprehensive collection of Tiffany in the world, and it certainly seems to be true: from famous household items like the Wisteria Lamp (pictured) to stained glass windows, glass vases, pottery, mosaics, jewelry, even architectural elements. The museum's founders, Hugh and Jeannette McKean, were ardent collectors of Tiffany artworks and other American decorative arts and paintings; indeed, it was the McKeans who rescued elements of Tiffany's Long Island estate, Laurelton Hall, from certain ruin after a devastating fire in the 1950s. (They donated or loaned some of their collection to the Metropolitan Museum in New York, so we can thank the McKeans for some of the Tiffany artwork there, too.) At the Morse Museum you can see the famous Tiffany Chapel, conserved and reconstructed in its own gallery, and room after room of beautifully displayed Tiffany glass. A selection of the museum's painting and print collection is also on view, featuring work by Sargent, Henri, Mucha, and Parrish, as well as furniture and decorative arts from the European and American Art Nouveau and Arts and Crafts Movements. What a treat! Construction is underway on a new wing set to open in fall 2011, dedicated solely to Laurelton Hall; here, guests will enjoy among other things the reconstructed Daffodil Terrace. (Visitors to the Metropolitan Museum's Tiffany & Laurelton Hall exhibition in late 2006-early 2007 will remember the restored Daffodil Terrace -- well, it belongs to the Morse and soon will be in Winter Park for good. I happened to see that show and remember gasping at the Terrace's beauty. I also remember seeing Tim Gunn from Project Runway there!)

Visitors to the Morse will learn about some of the new research surrounding Tiffany and Art Nouveau. For instance, due credit is given here to Clara Driscoll, one of the Tiffany Studios designers who actually designed some of the most famous Tiffany lamps, including the Wisteria Lamp, the Dragonfly, and the Pond Lily lamp, all of which won international design awards. In spring 2011, Susan Vreeland's new novel, "Clara and Mr. Tiffany," will be published, which explores the career of Clara Driscoll and brings this artist even further into the spotlight.