Kelly Conway, Corning Museum Of Glass
Detail of frieze, Jacques Marquette’s Expedition, 1895. Tiffany Glass and Decorating Company, designed by Jacob Adolphus Holzer (American, b. Switzerland, 1858–1938). Glass mosaic. Marquette Building, Chicago, Illinois.
Mosaic panel with peonies, about 1900–1910. Tiffany Glass and Decorating Company or Tiffany Studios. Inlaid iridized glass, bronze. H. 34.5 cm; W. 39 cm; Diam. 2 cm. The Corning Museum of Glass, Corning, New York (77.4.91).
Pen wiper, about 1902–1906. Tiffany Studios. Favrile glass tesserae, bronze. H. 5.7 cm, Diam. 6.8 cm. The Corning Museum of Glass, Corning, New York (2015.4.8).
“Poppy” inkstand, about 1901. Tiffany Glass and Decorating Company, designed by Clara Wolcott Driscoll (American, 1861–1944). Favrile glass tesserae, bronze; pressed glass. H. 7.3 cm, Diam. 10.4 cm. The Corning Museum of Glass, Corning, New York (2014.4.79, purchased in part with funds from the F. M. Kirby Foundation).
“Swirl” pen tray, about 1900–1905. Tiffany Glass and Decorating Company or Tiffany Studios. Bronze, Favrile glass tesserae. H. 1.6 cm, W. 20 cm, D. 7.7 cm. The Corning Museum of Glass, Corning, New York (2016.4.6).
“All my life … I’ve had a fancy for collecting bits of glass. As a boy I was fond of the bright colored jewels in my father’s shop, and the passion for color grew with age.”
Louis C. Tiffany, as quoted in the New York Evening Post of August 10, 1881
If you were lucky enough to be listening to NPR’s All Things Considered over the summer, you would have heard a delightful interview with our October speaker, Kelly Conway, glass curator at the Corning Museum of Glass, about Mr. Tiffany’s fascination with colored glass.
She talked about the serendipity, detective work and archive scouring involved with her research into Tiffany’s glass mosaics. She related her “Indiana Jones” moment when, in Poughkeepsie’s Redeemed Christian Fellowship Church of God of Prophecy, she found 12 Tiffany mosaic columns that had been painted over.
Conway and her colleagues investigated the recently acquired personal papers of Frederick Wilson, head of Tiffany’s Ecclesiastical Department. They compared his scrapbook of drawings and commission notes with the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s collection of extraordinarily detailed watercolor sketches of these same commissions. They then compared the scrapbooks, drawings and watercolors to photographs in the Morse Museum’s collection of more than 2,000 archival photographs of the workrooms and workers selecting, cutting and piecing together glass.
The very name of Louis Comfort Tiffany connotes artisanship, exclusivity and luxury. While he is perhaps best known for his luminescent stained glass lamps and windows, Conway’s recent scholarship into Tiffany’s mosaic work has explored this understudied aspect of his glass virtuosity.
Kelly Conway will address the innovative materials and techniques Tiffany used, but she will also explore how viewing the sketches, design drawings, photographs and color sample panels of these mosaic commissions achieve the goal of contextualizing the artwork and humanizing the workers.
“It’s very much like a mosaic,” reported Ms., Conway. “You can’t understand the full picture until you see all the individual pieces.”
Kelly Conway was appointed curator of American glass at the Corning Museum of Glass in 2013. She previously curated American glass at the Chrysler Museum of Art in New York City. She received a master’s degree in the history of decorative arts at the Smithsonian Institution and Parsons School of Design and a bachelor’s degree in American history from DePauw University.