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Monday, March 21, 2016

Breakfast And Lunch At Tiffany's

This is the last in my series of posts to do with families and Life Cycles. Where possible I have tried to concentrate on a couple of generations, or other strong family links. As befits the last article, I will be featuring two generations of one famous family - the Tiffany's. So therein lies my poetic licence in the title. They are a standout example of all elements of Life Cycles Theory. The genesis of this came from looking at some of Louis Tiffany's most famous works in Chicago - the magnificent ceiling in the Macy's store (formerly Marshall Field) and the equally famous ceiling in the auditorium of the Cultural Centre (where they hold free classical music concerts every Wednesday). Then, of course, wherever there's a cultural shop (like the Architecture Society shop or the Institute of Art shop), you see photos and books on the iconic Tiffany glass. But that isn't the whole story.......there's the equally famous Tiffany Jewelry shops on which Truman Capote based his novella Breakfast At Tiffany's (and the title picture shows New York 5th Avenue headquarters). So there's much to cover and I won't be drawing things out.

Let's begin at the beginning. At first came Tiffany's shop. The father of Louis Tiffany was named Charles Lewis Tiffany and he was born Feb. 15th, 1812. When he had just passed his age 24 Year of Revolution (1836), he began a stationery and gift shop in New York (Sept. 1837), with $1,000 borrowed from his father. This was the beginning of his new age/direction in running his own business, and even though it was not a perfect match, it is fairly close. The first three days brought he and his partner John B. Young only $4.38 in sales, but they gained a reputation over the next several years, when they started selling fine glassware and porcelain as well as cutlery, clocks and jewelry. Now we're at the most important age 36 Year of Revolution (ie. most of the year 1848) and the question is :-  "what happened to represent a major breakthrough and life-changing new direction?" How many times do I ask the same basic question and get the same stunning results? But you may be sceptical and of very rational mindset and couldn't be bothered about other cases; it is in this case alone that you want proof.

OK then, he we go. In the year 1848 there was much turmoil in France generally and the city of Paris in particular. It was known as the February Revolution, resulting in the overthrow of the Orleans monarchy, and by year's end, the establishment of the French Second Republic. But to Charles Tiffany, who had recently sent a representative to Paris, to buy and import a range of fine giftware, this spelled opportunity. I am quoting from the Biographical Dictionary of America Vol. 10 :-
"In 1848 the firm began the manufacture of gold jewelry. During the panic that followed the disturbances in France in 1848, diamonds declined fifty percent., and Mr. Tiffany invested all the available resources of the firm in the purchase of these gems. They consequently became the largest diamond merchants in the country."

So what are Tiffany and Co. known for? Anyone can tell you - they are the worldwide premier dealer in luxury jewelry and design, particularly diamonds. I mean if money is no object for the finest diamond ring, then where do you go? Do I have to spell my evidence out in letters two feet high? The very thing Charles became known for, began in 1848 (not in 1837, when a stationery and gift shop was opened). It was, no doubt, preceded by a moment of frustration, as he had to deal with the day-to-day vagaries of life in the war-torn French capital, as well as putting all his money on the line.

But what else of significance happened to him in 1848? Not that I would need to, I might add, but let's really grind our rationalist 'you're simply deriving meaning where none exists pals' into the dust, shall we? On Feb. 18th, 1848, his even more famous first son, Louis Comfort Tiffany was born. Now in Life Cycles terms this is about as auspicious as it can get. Not only are father and son Confluent (ie. they share time in every Life Cycles significant year, which according to the theory, would promote empathy and understanding); but it is for almost 12 full months (ie. nearly 100%) - and in the single most important Life Cycles year of 36! It is, in my terms, a special and fated relationship and history will bear me out. Well we've just had breakfast at Tiffany's and a more hearty and satisfying meal you could not wish for. Now we're well fuelled up, let's journey onwards.

Louis Comfort Tiffany

We'll visit the same two years in Louis's life ie. the ages of 24 (the year 1872) and 36 (the year 1884). In lieu of joining the family business, he chose to pursue painting as a career and studied under noted artists Georges Inness and Samuel Colman. Thanks to his father's business he was able to extensively travel in North America, Europe and Africa during 1870-1. In 1872 he produced a painting called Snake Charmer At Tangier (shown below). It was exhibited at the Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia in 1876. He also began to work with glass in this year and it is significant, because this is what he would become famous for. I'm now going to quote from a book called Art Nouveau by Jean Lahor :-
"Tiffany first became interested in working with glass in 1872, at the age of 24, with the funding and support of his father's business. Although Louis quickly became an expert in the glassmaking field, he continued to sell his picturesque oil and watercolor paintings for the next seven years At the age of thirty-one he started an interior decorating firm with a number of other specialists. (here again we see the unbroken 7 year journey to his age 31 Year of Broken Pathways)...."
So yet more concrete evidence of a very significant new age opening up in a person's Year of Revolution (this time the age of 24). Mind you, he still retained his interest in art (and this year also marks the completion of his first important work), but it will be glass that he is remembered for. It should also be pointed out that the friendship side of Confluence is readily apparent between father and son. Even though he was expected to take over the family business, Charles never pressed this and totally backed his son in all his ventures. Louis began his interior decoration business with some of his father's influential clients. This led on to a high point of receiving a commission to redecorate a section of the White House. His father provided backing for the launching his main business - the Tiffany Glass Company (which came to employ hundreds of staff) and in 1885 Louis came to help design as well as occupy the top two floors of his father's multifamily dwelling on Madison Avenue.

Snake Charmer At Tangier by Louis Tiffany
But I've digressed a little and we'll now backtrack to 1884 (the year in which he was in his age 36 Year of Revolution) and ask again :- "what significant new age/direction opened up for him in this year (if indeed any could be found)?" In this year Tiffany dissolved a partnership he had had with a group known as Associated American Artists, over business differences. He then decided to form his own glass factory in Corona, New York, determined to provide the designs that improved the quality of contemporary glass. His leadership and talent together with his father's backing saw the business, known as the Tiffany Glass Company (opened in 1885), thrive and secure a very prominent and unique place in the Art Noveau world.

So there it is again, the genesis of the thing that Louis became known for, began in his age 36 Year of Revolution. Also, it should be pointed out that his first wife, Mary Goddard (whom he married at 24) died in 1884, leaving Louis very distressed for some time. Here is the period of frustration, preceding the breakthrough, that I constantly write about. It should also be noted that it was his father Charles (his best friend and confidant), who was most concerned about his welfare at this time and sought to have him design and live in his own new sprawling residence (shown below). This is as clear a case of Confluence in families as I have ever found.

The Tiffany Mansion At 72nd and Madison
We have now completed our lunch at Tiffany's Glass Company and again found the fare full of flavour and richness. But I sense what you'd really like to see is just some of the many things Louis Tiffany is famous for - his wonderful stained glass windows, his well-known Tiffany lamps, his fabulous mosaic ceilings and indeed all his glass, enamel and pottery works; as well as his use of hand-blown glass (known as Favrile Glass). Those are in the side column, but I guess you've already looked at the pictures first.

This brings to a close the current 12 month cycle of posts. Though I keep reminding you, you probably wouldn't remember that this blog traces the shape of the 12 year symbolic journey we all undertake in our lives. Each year has a theme and the next one due soon is the one which corresponds to my second significant year ie. the Year of Broken Pathways. This is the culmination of the unbroken 7 year journey from the Year of Revolution of the blog (ie. its birth in April, 2009) to it's eighth year beginning April 2016. What should you expect? Well you'll have to wait and see, but I can promise you will see changes in the nature of the posts. Not straight away, but gradually over the course of the next 12 months, you'll come to a realisation that our pathway has altered and we can never return to where we have been. Till then :- "may the cycles always bring you good fortune".

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