The Garden as a Picture: Agnes Northrop’s Stained-Glass Designs for Louis C.Tiffany

The Garden as a Picture: Agnes Northrop’s Stained-Glass Designs for Louis C.Tiffany


Good evening everyone. I’m Betsy Broun of
the Smithsonian American Art Museum and welcome to the 2016 season of the
Clarice Smith Distinguished Lecture series. It’s always very special when
Clarice herself is able to attend as she is tonight, and we are delighted to
thank you again for this wonderful series. I think we are in our 13th year
if I can count. Clarice, of course is well known as a painter
and now she has become a stained glass artist as well, so tonight’s talk is very
pertinent. Thank you again for making all this possible. We not only bring great lecturers who
delight us and illuminate us, but we also provide an occasion at a reception
afterward in the courtyard for you to come and talk with the lecturer
informally, so you’re all invited upstairs to the courtyard after. A couple
of housekeeping notes, you might turn off your cell phones or put them on mute.
When we get to the question-and-answer part after the lecture, it would be great if
you go and use the microphones. This is being webcast and so it makes it easier
for people listening online if they can hear the questions through the
microphone. This is going to be a truly great season. We want you to come
back on October 19th when we will feature sculptor Deborah Butterfield and
then again on November 2nd for a really wonderful Art Critic named Edward
Rothstein. We’re starting the season off at the very highest level
with the extraordinary scholar Alice Cooney Frelinghuysen. She’s better known
by her wide circle of friends as Nany, and if you just glanced at her resume
you would imagine her to be very ancient, because her list of publications and
awards is so remarkable it would dignify a scholar twice her age. She graduated
from Princeton, got an MA from the Winterthur Program in Early American Culture, and
then joined the Metropolitan Museum of Art as an Andrew W. Mellon Fellow. She is
now, years later the Anthony W. and Lulu C. Wang curator of American Decorative
Arts at the MET. I think if you’re in Dec Arts at the MET
you must feel you’ve died and gone to heaven. In that role she has curated
any number of major exhibitions, written major books, lectured widely on American
ceramics, glass, stained glass, jewelry, furniture, and more. You might have seen
her show last year at the MET called “Artistic Furniture of the Gilded Age” and
I’m pretty sure everybody here has been to see her inspired installation of the
Engelhard Court which opened in 2009. The list of her publications runs on
for many pages. I’m not going to try to go there, but she has published on topics such as
stained glass at Woodlawn Cemetery, Chinese export porcelain, finance
manufacturing, American ceramics, John Lafarge, the home of the Havemeyer family,
and many other subjects. By far the preponderance of her scholarship has
addressed the inexhaustible subject of Louis Comfort Tiffany. She has produced
literally dozens of shows, books, and articles on this amazing artists, all
aspects of his career. We owe a lot of what we know about
Tiffany to Nany. He was, of course, at once an artistic genius who reinvented
stained glass for the modern age. He was a powerfully influential teacher and
studio director. He was one of the most enterprising businessmen, a true
entrepreneur in the 19th century gilded age, and he was a master marketer who
knew how to put American decorative arts onto the international map. He even won
the first prize at the Paris Exposition for a beautiful screen that is in a
collection here in Washington DC and the French glassmakers never forgave him for
it. Her book on Tiffany’s home which was called, “Lauralton Hall” is quite a
revelation. An exhibition of Tiffany stained glass was shown in Paris,
Montreal, and in Richmond and is a landmark study in its own right. I have to say
one of my own favorite things that she’s done on Tiffany is a little short
two-minute video on the Metropolitan’s website. She talks about a tiny hair
ornament. It’s about three inches high that Tiffany made for Louisine Havemeyer.
It shows to dragonflies on little dandelion puffs and it’s all exquisitely
made in enamel and precious stones and precious metals. It is a marvel, and
somehow she’s a Marvel who managed to make it just come alive in two minutes. It’s unforgettable you have to go see it.
Overall, of course, across all of these projects Nany has helped us recover an age of extraordinary aesthetic range in
American culture. From the elite homes and lives of our Gilded Age ancestors,
and shows us a part of our heritage that was hidden for far too long when people
were focusing almost exclusively on paintings and sculpture. No wonder then that she received the
Frederick E. Church award for her contributions to American culture in
2014. It is a real pleasure to welcome Nany Frelinghuysen to the museum, where she is going to talk tonight about a
collaborator of Tiffany’s, Agnes Northrop. Nany. Well, Betsy that was a truly beautiful
introduction for which I thank you. I just want to say what an honor it
is for me to have been invited to speak here as part of the Clarice Smith’s
Distinguished Lecture Series. I’m just thrilled to be at
the Smithsonian American Art Museum. I have to echo a little bit what Betsy was
talking about this amazing and to me totally unexpected connection between my
topic and Clarice Smith. Clarice Smith, a woman artist, but most recently as a
designer and maker of stained-glass who collaborated with the
stained glass maker and restored Tom Ventrella on a wonderful oculus
commissioned by the New York Historical Society. Which was unveiled only last
night, but I have to tell you, in true transparency, I only just learned of Mrs. Smith’s
work in stained glass last week. It’s a wonderful residence with a kind
of legacy, i’d like to think, established by Agnes Northrop. As Betsy
indicated I have spent the better part of my career studying various aspects of
the work of Louis Comfort Tiffany. Of course, Tiffany is a well-known name the
son of the founder of the eponymous jewelry and silver store. This artistic
polymath whose career spanned over half a century worked in more diverse media
than any other single artists of his time, indeed perhaps of all time. Yes, that’s a bold statement to make, but
one must consider the range of his work from paintings – and i’m showing you two
examples here from your collection. Market day at Tangiers, one of
them, in the upper left, of 1873. Pastels, watercolors, and photography again from
SAAM’s collection. Tiffany’s photograph of fishermen in Sea bright, New Jersey of 1887,
to stained glass windows, mosaics, and lamps to blown glass vessels,
enamel work, and pottery to furniture textiles, jewelry – here’s that piece that was being
referred to – and book design to the design of buildings,
interiors, and gardens. Like great artistic and design studios through the
ages, Tiffany’s workshop was staffed with artists and highly-skilled skilled
craftspeople selected by him, most of whom have remained largely anonymous. Yet
recent documentation and new research has brought to light the contributions
of some of those unknown talents, highlighting especially the important
role played by women in Tiffany’s studios. A great cache of letters from one of
them, Clara Driscoll, identified many women.
Driscoll’s role as a designer of floral lamb shades and as a manager of what
became the Tiffany girls was elucidated in an exhibition a few years ago by the
New York Historical Society. The Tiffany girls seen here, pose for their
photograph on the roof of the studio’s building, where the women responsible for
that critical phase in the production of windows and lampshades, which involved
the selecting of the glass for the individual components and delicately
cutting them into often intricate and unusual shapes. Clara Driscoll is seen
standing at the far left of the photograph, but it is the woman standing
at the opposite end of the group of women, Agnes Northrop, who has been a
particular interest to me. My interest in Northrop was sparked by two
drawings in the MET’s extensive holdings of water color ink and pencil designs
from the Tiffany studios. Few are signed by the artists. Two window designs, however,
bear Northrop’s signature. The subjects are telling, one is a floral border
design for a four seasons allegorical window, the other an elaborate garden
landscape. The central figure of the finished
window of the drawing on your, let me just back up a little bit. The
border does not survive, you just see one detail here. None of those individual
panels have come to light yet. Although the central
image does, but happily for that garden landscape, the drawing is just the central panel of
what is a magnificent three paneled window, that does survive. These
then began my quest. My search was aided by the discovery of a memoir that
Northrop wrote very late in her life, which helped piece together her
biography and provided documentation for a number of the important window
commissions. This lecture has given me the opportunity to further my
research on Northrop and indeed to consider it in a new light. Louie Tiffany made many innovations in
stained-glass notably his development and use of a type of glass called
opalescent. Yet one of his most important origination was the introduction of a
totally new subject matter. Previously and is practiced by contemporary
stainless studios both here and abroad, windows were either strictly decorative
or more commonly embodied a narrative or symbolic content with figural subjects.
Here you see on your left a window by Edward Burne-Jones for Morris and
Company of King David the Poet, and on your right an allegorical figure of
spring by Daniel Cottier of New York and London, both dating to the late 19th
century. Such was the demand that Tiffany’s studios too maintain a thriving
business in the design and production of figural windows. Some extraordinarily
elaborate, and these can be found in churches throughout the country,
thousands. By the end of the 19th century, these figures were often set into either
a mere suggestion of a landscape, or even a fully-realized one. Yet no stained glass artist prior to Tiffany promoted and
utilized landscape as its sole subject. Tiffany’s early artistic mentor, the
American tonalist painter George Inness, may have provided a critical influence
in directing Tiffany to landscape compositions. The period also coincided with
the burgeoning garden movement of the late nineteenth and early twentieth
centuries in which I posit had a similarly important influence on a
particular kind of landscape that Tiffany’s studios would produce. Windows
that would become the domain of the designer Agnes Northrop, who more than once emphatically assertive that she did not
do windows, do figures, excuse me. Who was this remarkable unsung woman who
pioneered new subject matter and worked on commissions for some of America’s
most prominent Gilded Age citizens? It’s been possible to piece together a rough
biography. Agnes was born in 1857 to Emily Fairchild and Alan P Northrop
in Flushing, a community in Queens just outside of Manhattan. Her maternal
grandfather, Ezra Fairchild, was a well-known educator and established the
Fairchild Institute, also known as the Flushing Institute in 1841. Her father
taught at the school where he met Magnus’s mother and married her. Tiffany acknowledged that his early
schooling was in Flushing and although the class rosters for 1860 when he would have matriculated there are missing, it’s very possible that he attended the
Institute as a young adolescent. Although the institute was a noted private
boarding school for boys, it also gave Northrop her first formal
education, and she resided there for most of her life even after the death of her
parents. Moving only in her final years to the Gramercy Park Hotel where she
died at the age of 96 in 1953. Her obituary indicated that she was actively
designing windows for churches and mausoleum until two years is before her death. While the Fairchild Institute may account
for Northrop’s academics schooling, the source of her artistic training is
unknown. She’s said to have shown an early
aptitude for art and briefly designed book covers for a publishing house, like
other women of the era. Here I show you a book cover and a stained-glass
window both designed by Northrop’s contemporary, Sarah Wyman Whitman. One
cannot say definitively when Northrop began her career with Tiffany, but in her
memoir she recalled that in 1884 at the age of 27 she knew someone who had a
friend who worked in “Mr. Tiffany’s stained glass business” and she was
introduced to him. Tiffany then referred her to Mr. Pringle
Mitchell, manager of the firm who told her that she could try it. Agnes Northrop fit the requisite profile
of the women Tiffany employeed. She was Protestant, middle class, and unmarried.
The studios themselves may have provided some of her artistic training
and Northrop recalled that Ann Vanderlip took her under her wing in the very
beginning. Vanderlip was one of a small number of women designers working
there during the late 1880s and 1890s just for a short time. Here I
show you Vanderlip’s Minnehaha window with its original design that was made
for the Duluth Public Library. During those early years Northrop probably
worked in varying capacities and acknowledged the help of Vanderlip.
She was made to do copy work, produced cartoons, all kinds of different things
in the studios, but she particularly valued the critiques by Tiffany. Such
was this by the early eighteen nineties she had forged an independent role for
herself within the studios. The first published reference to Northrop’s
association with Tiffany dates to 1893 when she exhibited a cartoon for a
window of an art museum at the Architectural League of New York
captioned as having been, designed by L.C. Tiffany drawn by A.F. Northrop.
Unfortunately the cartoon is not known to survive, but it may have been a window
in the Henry Field Memorial Gallery that Tiffany design for the Art Institute of
Chicago also an 1893, and the only Tiffany studio’s Art Museum commission
that I’m aware of. Might it have been for the skylight which
was described as having slender bands in a lotus pattern in light
and dark green on the field of soft rich pink? 1893 was an important year for
Tiffany and for Northrop. It was the year of the World’s Columbian Exposition of
Chicago intended to be the largest in history of the international exhibitions.
It was significant, the exhibition was significant, for its inclusion of the
woman’s building, a kind of mini museum that would serve to illustrate the
progress women had made over the past 400 years since the country’s founding.
The building featured a substantial presentation of American
applied arts by women: decorative painting, wood carving, pottery,
jewelry, several categories of textiles, book design, and stained-glass. Women
artists working at the Tiffany Glass and Decorating Company as, it was
called at the time, may have had a bit of an edge for Candice Wheeler the
mastermind of the building had been a partner with Tiffany in the early
1880s. Northrop contributed a sketch for an elaborate rose window also
never executed. Tiffany, himself put on an extensive display at the Chicago fair to
great acclaim. This landmark exhibition was a pivotal event in introducing
Tiffany’s art to the International public, and promoting it for future
clients, as well. The extensive display included an entire chapel complete with
mosaic reredos, an enormous glass electrolier. glass mosaic columns and baptismal
font, and leaded glass windows. Northrop may well have drawn the design for the field of lilies, seen
beyond the mosaic columns. You can see that almost trompe l’oeil columns
that have been employed here, as well. Indeed in an important article in Art
Interchange the following year it was said that Northrop had, “a natural talent for
flowers and all conventional designs.” She’s wisely made these her specialty. A
related window of conventionalized annunciation lilies was illustrated in
that particular article. Here are the lilies superimposed upon a composition loosely
derived from 13th century medallion windows. Northrop did not work with the
other women in Tiffany’s employ, the glass cutting room where the women
selected, arranged, and cut the glass. Although she depended on them greatly
for the realization of her designs. Nor did she work in the studio with the
other male designers of windows. At least by the early eighteen nineties she had a
studio of our own, away from the girls. It was reached by walking through a
labyrinthine hole to what was described as a small room with a few flower
studies in color and great sheets of Manila paper tacked to the walls. The
process began with a small water color rendering usually at a scale of 1 inch
to a foot. Watercolor being the medium so well-suited to convey the subtleties of
the translucency of colored glass. The sketch was then cast in the designing
room into a cartoon the exact size of which the window will be. Northrop was
also involved in this process, as well. From there, it was turned over
to the selectors and cutters. Northrop was one of the few women to secure a patent
for her designs, a practice often employed by her male counterparts. Her
first, dates to 1896 and is seen here in the photograph that was part of her
patent submission. It was for an ornamental chancel window for St.
Matthews Evangelical Lutheran Church in Brooklyn. In the
realization of her design as it survives today, the central panel features a
jeweled cross surrounded by cherub faces, but the lower half of it and the
side lancsets display floral motifs of purple clematis and the stylized
leaves and blossoms of the passionflower, in an artistic style that she would utilize in subsequent windows. The windows with which Northrop
has been most associated however, are those for her family church in Flushing,
the Reformed Church where her grandfather, the Reverend Azra Fairchild,
became pastor in 1865. Family members including Agnes were baptized, worshiped,
and were burried there. In 1892 they built a new church, a larger building to be
adorned with modern windows. The church was particularly proud that their local
girl was the designer of the windows. Deemed at the time of the church’s 10th
anniversary celebration in 1902 to be of exquisite coloring and adding greatly to
the beauty of the interior. By 1899 she had designed the Robert Baker Memorial
window. The central panel features carefully realized floral motifs, the
annunciation lilies and poppies with their symbolic meanings, but also a
profusion of lushes double red peonies and magnolia blossoms. These motifs would
have had special resonance for the deceased and his family, for Baker was
the secretary and treasurer of one of the largest nurseries in
Flushing. Northrop received a more poignant commission in 1903 when she was
asked to design a window to memorialize her father who had served as an elder in
the church. Evoking medallion windows and its overall composition, the top encloses an opalescent heavenly city, but a stylized fruit tree dominates the window
set in a landscape of a stream meandering through purple
mountains emblematic of the voyage of life. Conventionalized passion-flowers
frame the composition. Floral motifs were considered especially appropriate for
this window as well because as noted in the local paper when it was unveiled
one of Mr. Northrop’s chief pleasures was working in his flower garden, which
would have proved handy subject matter for Agnes. Although Northrop was
primarily a designer of windows, Driscoll’s letters reveal that from time to time Tiffany directed her to assist the
Tiffany girls when short-staffed. Like when he suggested that she helped
Driscoll on the design of this complex deep sea lap. She again helped Driscoll
with some small bronze boxes based on Queen Anne’s lace and other decorative
objects, even designing silk lampshade panels like these decorated with
stylized pinks. Northrop knew the drill, she had preceded Driscoll as head of the
Tiffany girls for about a year or so with about nine young women under her,
but she never liked her managerial role preferring art. She recalled that she
was ever so pleased when she learned of Driscoll’s arrival, Northrop gladly
resigned in her favor. Designing windows was her enduring passion. It’s important
to remember that numerous artists design Tiffany windows. In the true sense of a
studio there was a constant flow of work from designers to those who executed the
leaded glass all under Tiffany’s supervision, but of the men and women
involved in the studios during the 1880s and 1890s Northrop outlasted them
all enjoying an unprecedented career of nearly half a century there. The majority of those who contributed
designs were men in addition to Tiffany, Frederick Wilson, Joseph Louberg, Jacob Holzer, and Edward Sperry who like Northrup was also from Flushing. Yet like many of the designers of Tiffany’s
lamps and windows Northrop was not generally credited for her role. The
studios were active and busy and Driscoll’s letters suggest that
there was more of an atmosphere of collaboration then has been previously
acknowledged. In true studio fashion, it was apparently not unusual for two
designers to work on different aspects of a single-window. A description
published in 1894 acknowledged that Northrop was called upon to “add details and
flowers too many important windows.” One example that was singled out was the
Jay Gould memorial window at Roxbury, New York where Northrop drew the floral
background for Frederick Wilson’s figural design. British-trained Wilson
was Tiffany’s principal designer of figural windows. Northrop by then had
become the principal for flowers, foliage, and then landscapes. This drawing that I
showed earlier is for an allegorical four seasons window and it documents an
important collaboration between Tiffany and Northrop. It was made for Walter
Jenning’s Long Island mansion, Burwood, just across Cold Spring harbor from
Tiffany’s country estate Lauralton Hall. Jennings, a founder of Standard Oil,
commissioned this window for the landing of the grand staircase above the front
entrance – a typical location for a Tiffany window. The long vertical
rectangle was for the figural panels, and as they
survive today are remarkably close to the original watercolor, as you can see
here. It had a elaborate decorative border and the figure in the center of
the drawing was signed at the bottom of the fall/winter design, you can barely
make out the Louis C. Tiffany. The bottom of the floral border was also
signed and it, as I hope you can read, says A.F. Northrop. The border is composed of 12 individual
floral panels – perhaps a much favored temporal allegories – referencing in their
number the months of the year. Each depicts a different flower. The two side
panels one with the hourglass the other with a sickle also allude to the
transitory nature of time. They offer a virtual vocabulary tablet
of some of Northrop’s and Tiffany’s favored motifs. The top register
portraying flowering vines, climbing white planetas, purple wisteria, trumpet
bynum and purple clematis. The bottom register was all water plants, the
waterlily lotus, and Japanese iris. two panels depict vases of flowers, one
of peonies, and the other of poppies. Floral studies were introduced as
subject matter in their own right for stained glass during the aesthetic era.
Some windows, such as those by Fredrick Crowning Shield or Daniel Cottier,
referenced the pre-Raphaelite style as seen in the window, Cottier’s window, on your left in the Museum
of Fine Arts, Boston. La Farge’s flower studies were equally distinctive
in there homage to Japanese art, such as the MET’s Peonies Blowing in the
Wind, and both date to about 1880. Northrop forged her own individualistic
style, at times more decorative mode, at others more naturalistic. Her most
notable floral study is her Magnolia window made for the Paris Exposition
Universelle of 1900 and now in the collection of the Hermitage Museum in
St. Petersburg. It’s almost abstract in its rich assemblage of five luscious
magnolia blossoms. The creamy white petals are arrayed in such a fashion
that they’re almost indistinguishable from the dense green foliage. It received
high acclaim in the exhibition press called superb nothing approaching it is
shown by class workers anywhere. It garnered a diploma of Merit from the
judges who singled out Northrop for the excellent window designed by her and
exhibited by Tiffany studios. Whether Tiffany would
have credited Northrop and the other designers is not known, because the
requirements of the exhibition of Paris stipulated that all entrance supply the
designers, name not always the practice. This window is also evidence of
Northrop’s careful observation of nature. Indeed magnolias were a subject of a
particularly beautiful watercolor study as well as for a photograph of hers.
The relatively large number of her photographs that survived is testament
not only to Northrop’s interested in nature but also her early interest in
photography. Her use of the camera prompted Driscoll to write in one of her
letters on June 15th, 1898 that, “Miss Northrop has a sixty-dollar
camera and has taken some beautiful photographs of dogwoods, ferns, and other
plants that are so fine. They are of great value to her. The only trouble is that the expense
only begun when the camera is bought. Each photograph cost something.”
Driscoll’s concern over the cost and Tiffany’s for that matter didn’t seem to
phase Northrop. As seen on a sketching trip to Europe that Northrop took at
Tiffany’s invitation, joined by Driscoll and Parker Mcelhenney also in Tiffany’s
employ. In the journal that Tiffany keep of that trip – one of the very few
Tiffany holographic materials to survive – he wrote in July 1907 that, “he insisted
that Dr. Mcelhenney and Mrs. Driscoll save the film, and photograph only what I
have selected, but could do nothing with Miss Northrop who took a picture
regardless of anything I had said.” I think she would well have benefited from
our digital age. Nonetheless her photographs of plants
provided important source material for many of her window designs. Tiffany’s
journal of that trip provides further confirmation of her focus on floral subjects. They toured the
French countryside traveling in style and flashy automobile photographing and
sketching apparently with greater or lesser success. For Tiffany commented on
one outing that, “Miss Northrop tore her’s up, Mrs. Driscoll’s in pencil – no
good. Here you see them sketching with Tiffany in the middle, Clara on his right, and Agnes on his
left all sketching on a sidewalk in Campere. On another day, Tiffany bought for Agnes some very fine
gladiolas, dark purple, verry rich and asked her to stay at home and paint them. A few days later he purchased some fine dahlias almost like chrysanthemums sent
them all home and found miss Northrop arranging them when I got back. It was
the introduction of landscapes as an appropriate subject matter for stained
glass windows that was where Tiffany truly made his mark. It was connected to
the various philosophical discourses of the second half of the 19th century.
Swedenborgian thought that enice had embraced, as well as ideals espoused by
Emerson and Thoreau on the spiritualism conveyed by nature. Fields and woodlands
were widely admired as nature’s gardens. Tiffany’s earliest woodland landscape
window, Northrop’s, dates to 1895 the Isaac Harding Frothingham Memorial for
the Church of the Savior, now the First Unitarian Church in Brooklyn, with its
Old Testament subject of the heart and the brook. At the time of its installation,
it received a write-up in the Brooklyn daily Eagle. The description based, no
doubt, on a press release written by Tiffany’s very ambitious marketing
department. It was especially glowing. “The lower part of the memorial
window is a beautiful landscape representing a bounding rushing brook in
a forest glade. Illuminated with the light of the setting sun which warms and fills
with a rich glow the most remote nook of the glade. So close to nature, as
the scene depicted that for a moment it seems as if it were
nature itself seen through an open window.” The landscape is actually only the lower
half of the window. The upper half above the balcony was a figural design of
angels that was designed by Frederick Wilson. Despite this
dramatic innovation and subject matter, that the landscape represented and
perhaps emblematic of the struggles of women receiving little recognition for
their work, the newspaper article identified only Wilson as the designer,
failing to credit Northrop at all for her contribution. Tiffany did credit
Northrop for her design of the first landscape window he published in one of
the vast amount of promotional literature that the studios produced.
The little pamphlet dating to 1896 featured 16 windows, all but one figural designs, all designed by Tiffany’s stable of male designers. Only one woman’s work
was represented, a landscape, Northrop’s. The landscape window in the
Brooklyn church was not the sublime that attracted American landscape painters of
earlier decades, rather it is the familiar intimate view. It’s tempting
to speculate that Northrop’s local surrounding served as inspiration.
Suggested by one of her luminous photographs that she took of her local
Kassena Brook, part of Kassena Park in Flushing, which captures a very similar
scene of a meandering rock-strewn Brooks surrounded by trees. Almost a full decade
later she created a similar woodland landscape again referencing the heart
and the brook in the Trobridge Memorial, originally for the First Church
of Christ now Center Church in New Haven, Connecticut. She would eventually
introduced this now almost generic view for an ecclesiastic setting to as Northrop wrote, “apartments where a window
was wanted for color and to blot out a view not interesting.” She adapted the scene in 1910 for a
window for the New York dining room commissioned by Helen Gould, the daughter
of Robert Baron Jay Gould. Northrop’s memoirs provide this crucial
documentation. The subject of a rock filled stream amidst autumn foliage bears a striking
similarity as well to the autumn landscape window in the MET’s collection. It, too, a domestic window. The original drawing indicated that it was designed
in 1923 for the Brookline Massachusetts Neo-Gothic masion of real estate
magnate Lauren Delbert Toll. But in many ways the window, I think, may have been prophetic. Such a
tunnel woodland scenes often grace mausoleums or were appropriate memorials
in churches. Toll, however, went bankrupt and died before his house was even
completed and presumably his heirs, unable to pay his debts, including the
Tiffany studios bill, defaulted before the window was actually installed in the
house. Tiffany at that point convinced his close friend Robert De
Forest to donate it to the Metropolitan just a few years later. About the
time that Northrop was probably working on the designs for the Gould window, Tiffany studios received the commission
for some windows for a small church, Union church, in Proctor, Vermont. The town,
founded by the Proctor family, is best known for its marble quarries and stone
cutting. The lengthy correspondence between the Proctor family and Tiffany
studios survives, shedding rare light on the patron client relationship. One of
the founders of the town, Frederick Proctor, first contacted Tiffany studios
in 1909 requesting a window for the church. The studios wrote in reply, “we
will be glad to prepare special designs for your consideration or possibly you may have a particular
subject in mind?” Proctor evidently did have a particular
subject in mind, in fact the view of the Vermont mountains that are visible from
the church. Proctor sent the studios a photograph of the view of Mount
Killington and Mount Pico, which the proctors partially owned. These
photographs were turned over to Northrop and one of these here remarkably
survived in a group of Northrop’s effects. Several sketches were apparently
drawn sent back and forth, full-size cartoons were made, visits to
and from the studios, and much bargaining. The original estimate was four to five
thousand dollars and it was eventually negotiated to a price of two thousand.
The resulting window based on this photograph was completed in 1911,
a luminous depiction of that spectacular site-specific mountain view in summer. So
successful was that window that when Frederick Proctor died the
following year his widow went to Tiffany studios to commission a companion window,
autumn, in her husband’s memory. there are No records of photographs for this, but
certainly it too features the Vermont countryside now in its fiery autumn
foliage. It’s likely that Northrop was also responsible for the design of
Proctor’s third window dating to nearly two decades later. This time a memorial
to Frederick Proctor’s widow. Here depicting spring, complete with the field
of daffodils in the foreground. Northrop adapted her mountain landscape theme
again in 1913 in perhaps a more structured landscape. A composition that
is almost arts and crafts and its aesthetic with its rigid vertical trees
that serve as a framing device with a canopy of greenery at the top. Here
she added a profusion of pink floral and rhododendrons in the foreground. The
window figured prominently the Northrops memoirs, no doubt, for the
importance of the commission by Andrew Carnegie and his wife, for a window in
memory of his parents and siblings in Dunfermline Abbey in Scotland. The
reception of that window demonstrates, however, that Tiffany’s and Northrop’s
new subject matter was not universally embraced. As arresting as the design was
the window proved too radical for a more conservative British clientele steeped
in their tradition of narrative windows. The pure landscape subject
defended the local clergy and it was rejected for the Abbey by the
authorities because it was deemed, “unecclesiastic and too modern.” They
wanted conventional designs drawn from geometry or hagiography. They
also rejected the new opalescent glass, adding they prefered for it to be made up of
little pieces of glass. But Carnegie was quoted as saying that he selected the
design because it expressed to him religious emotion as he said, “God is in
the all the great outdoors.” Carnegie like Proctor had a close
connection with this commission and he visited the studios often during the
process. He contributed various suggestions, some not chosen like
replacing the rhododendrons in the foreground with thistles to connect
to his Scottish heritage. The window, however, is not pure landscape it’s
rather, with its foreground rendering of flowering shrubs, it’s more of a
landscape koon garden. Now I would like to conclude by looking at Tiffany
and Northrop in light of their bridging of those worlds – landscapes and
gardens – from a new perspective and more particularly connecting the world of
stained glass with the blossoming garden movement and the work of the American
impressionist painters. The period of the flourishing of Tiffany’s landscape and
garden windows coincides with gardens themselves becoming a dominant subject
in American painting. I’m fortunate to have so many wonderful images to
choose from the Smithsonian here. Here Childe Hassam and Celia Thaxter’s garden on the Isles of Shoals, that I couldn’t
resist. This was a theme that was rarely
encountered as gardens in and of themselves prior to the advent of American
impressionism. These artists painted the colorful, intimate, pleasing, domestic
scaled gardens which found great favor among the American public. The late 19th
century saw tremendous growth in interesting gardens. Urbanization and
denser and noisier city living caused many to move out to the newly formed
suburbs where they made their own private domestic scale gardens. At the
same time the newly rich, who are creating grand homes in cities like New
York, on Fifth and Park Avenues, we’re building concomitant country
estates establishing seasonal resort homes and communities and Lenox,
Massachusetts and Newport, Rhode Island or on Long Island. I’m just showing you
two early 20th century estate gardens from the Smithsonian’s digitization
project of the Garden Club of America’s lantern slides. Both of these of Long
Island Gardens. The one on the left, the doubled day garden and on the right
the garden for Mrs. Harold Pratt, also a Tiffany patron in Glencoe. This
interest in gardens of all kinds was nurtured by the proliferation of
gardening articles in the popular press, as well as the new magazines and books
devoted to the subject. House in Garden, Country Life in America, and countless
publications. Many authored by women such as Alice Morse Earl’s Old-Time Gardens
of 1901, and Hildegard Hawthorn’s the Lure of the Garden of 1911, that provided both
practical advice as well as well illustrated discussions of garden
philosophy and design. Garden clubs and societies sprouted nationwide
culminating in the founding of the Garden Club of America in 1913. I want to credit Anna Marley of the
Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Art and her exhibition and publication on artists
and the garden movement as one of the catalyst for my rethinking of Northrop’s
windows in this particular context. She began her essay quoting Annalee
Merit’s 1908 book, An Artist’s Garden. “An artist’s interest in gardening is to
produce pictures without brushes.” Indeed, I would agree. Tiffany and
Northrop demonstrate another way to produce pictures without brushes. This
sentiment was put forth by the noted landscape architect Beatrice Barron the
previous year when she wrote in an essay published in Scribners entitled, The
Garden as a Picture, “the landscape gardener paints with actual
color, line, and perspective to make a composition, as the maker of stained
glass does.” Both authors may well have been channeling Gertrude Jekyll whose
publications were many in which had a large following in the United States. It
was Jekyll who promoted the idea of the garden as a series of pictures as early
as 1882. The period also saw a proliferation of interest on the part of
artists to construct their own gardens, which often served as subjects for their
paintings. Notably the gardens of the artistic circle of Cornish, New Hampshire,
or those of Lillian Wescott and Phillip Hail outside of Philadelphia, and John Henry Twachtman in Connecticut whose home and grounds became a gathering place for
fellow impressionist, to name just a few. Certainly gardens were an important
theme for impressionist painters both here and abroad. In the present context,
Tiffany himself was something of a self-taught landscape architect and
he designed extensive gardens on his nearly 600 acre country estate Lauralton
Hall. He created both formal and natural gardens throughout the property as these
rare color images published in Country Life in America, suggest. Often demonstrating his preference for
native varieties, they included sweeps of purple iris near a pond, or pool of water
with great clusters of water lilies. He also maintained extensive greenhouses
on the property to continually restock the gardens, terraces, and interior court.
When he commissioned the Spanish artist, Joaquín Sorolla, to do his portrait
in 1911, he chose as his setting the flower-filled terraces of Lauralton Hall. Although Northrop did not have the space
nor the means to maintain a garden, there was one that she frequented at the
Flushing Institute, as seen in this photograph of hers of hydrangeas in
bloom there. You can just barely make out the Institute garden. Perhaps more
importantly, during the third quarter of the 19th century and well into the
twentieth her hometown of Flushing was dominated by the horticultural industry.
The first commercial nursery in the nation was founded there in 1735, and the
industry grew in the 19th century, as the garden movement flourished in the
ensuing decades. By the turn of the century Flushing was the nursery capital
of New York and widespread surrounding areas. There were at least five large
nurseries establish there, and as witnessed by these trade catalogs, just a few of the many that were published that date to the first decades
of the 20th century, they were extensive indeed. There were at least 20 different
varieties, I counted, of magnolias alone listed in the Parsons nursery catalog.
During this period, nurseries took on the role of botanical gardens and they
invited members of the public to view and enjoy their stock. Northrop most
certainly spent much time there. Pure garden windows were typically more
the province of domestic commissions rather than ecclesiastic, with few
exceptions. One of the earliest of Northrop’s
ambitious domestic garden landscapes dates to 1905. This glorious window, now at
the Corning Museum of Glass. It was commissioned by Melchior Beltzhoover, an oil and cotton millionaire, from Natchez, Mississippi for the music room
Rochroane the 44 room castle he built in Irvington, New York. Beltzhoover had
earlier, in 1895, commissioned from Tiffany a resurrection angel window in memory of
his wife’s parents, in Natchez. The mansion’s architect A.J. Manning was not
notable other than the fact that he was local to Irvington, and Tiffany worked
with him on several notable commissions. Tiffany, himself, spent long summers, many summers in his parents country place in Irvington before
building his own country estate on Long Island. The house overlooked the Hudson
River and indeed the landscape in stained glass suggest the views of the
Hudson as it might have been seen from the house. The foreground, however, is the
garden with the flowers serving as the framing elements. As such the grandeur of
the Hudson River landscape is mediated by more comfortable garden flowers,
recognizable species hollyhocks, trumpet vines, and clematis. The window
created by Northrop, an artistic invention of a perpetual garden. Such
gardens were redolent of the old-fashioned garden, part of the
nostalgic atmosphere of the colonial revival. These gardens were comforting
and expressed reassuring notions to an America anxious over the potent
political and social changes taking place in the decades following the
nation’s centennial in 1876. Issues of immigration from both Europe and Asia
and the stirrings of unrest that would lead to World War One. Gardens were also
considered for their therapeutic qualities. Thus depictions of gardens in one’s home in paintings or windows imparted qualities of comfort and
well-being year round, but unlike a painting a stained-glass window took it
one step further. It actually closed off the troubling
outside world presenting instead an idealized gardenview. Period publication
endorsed not only the therapeutic value of gardens themselves, but as an ideal of
the Arts and Crafts movement promoted the close connection between the garden
and the home. Careful consideration was given to the view of the garden out
of the window of the home. The noted landscape architect Fletcher Steel in
his article, tying together house and garden in Garden Magazine of 1915, wrote,
“if care is taken that every house window shall be a frame for a beautiful picture,
and that there be as much variety as possible in the views, the landscape will
become a living picture tied up with the house in the best way.” As impressionist
paintings often show domestic gardens viewed from a window or from an open
doorway, a garden stained-glass window could do one better. It would literally provide a constant
pleasing garden view not from the window but as the window itself, and as such the
garden always seen at its peak. Here we are, opps, I guess it was taking just
a while. One of the more elaborate, or probably one of the most elaborate of
Northrop’s garden landscapes was this three-panel panorama window of 1913 made
for Sarah Cochran’s country estate Linden Hall outside of Pittsburgh.
The drawing composed of washes of gouache and semi transparent
watercolor confirms Northrop’s authorship with her signature at the
lower right. It was commissioned by a woman. Cochran’s husband Philip died
young but not before making a fortune in developing a process to make coke and
this providing her with the means to build Linden Hall. Cochran loved
gardens and built extensive ones on the grounds. Hence the subject she requested for the
window which may be a departure from the fictionalized gardens that were
Northrop’s usual repertoire. The garden had a long vista through tall pines
flanking a central sculptural fountain. The two side panels depict on the
left foxgloves and peonies exquisitely
rendered in glass, and on the right hollyhocks, much favored by Northrop and
the American Impressionists. Indeed the plants at Northrop depicted for her
garden windows aligned with those that brought to mind the comforting nostalgia
of the old-fashioned garden, and those promoted by the many garden writers, such
as hollyhocks, penes, iris, poppies, lilies, sweet william, and fox glove. The hollyhock
was one of the most esteemed by garden writers and artists alike. Here I
show you Frederick Frieseke among the hollyhocks of 1911, from the
National Academy of Design. Most writers prefer the simpler single blossom
variety to the double ones and they conjured up thoughts of one’s ancestors.
Candace Wheeler, Tiffany’s partner early in this decorative career wrote in 1901
in her book, Content in a Garden, “the hollyhocks and marigolds of our present
gardens undoubtedly stretch an unbroken chain of
linked seeds back to the English gardens from which our Puritan foremothers
parted in sorrow and this thought makes them more welcome and dear.” It was much
favored in painting and in glass. Foxgloves and peonies also favored by
Northrop and her American impressionist counterparts appealed to the antiquarianism of grandmother’s garden. Earl for example, in her old time gardens spoke of
the peonies charms and how fine peonies plants in an old garden personified New
England Brahmins. Similarly the iris through its association with the
old-fashioned garden was promoted throughout the period. Articles
proliferated on its suitability in the various periodicals and books at the
time. It provided subject matter for painters like Maria Oakey Dewing and
her Iris at Dawn of 1899. The old-time garden association and
Christian iconography together combine to make iris and lilys ideal subjects
for garden stained-glass memorials, such as this memorial window for a mausoleum
in Brooklyn of magnolias and iris. It’s now in the MET’s collection. Here I
couldn’t help but compare a detail from that window with the mass irises in
Tiffany’s garden. As demonstrated here and by the floral renditions in the
Cochrane window, the windows revealed that Northrop shared her employers aptitude
for exploiting the varied textures, lush colors, and light effects that were made
possible with opalescent glass and plating. Tiffany had revolutionized the
making of stained-glass, producing an extraordinary new range of colors and
chromatic effects. Glass with streaks of commingled color and hand manipulated to
achieve textures. Just to notice here the model glass of the leaves here of this
incredible shaded glass – all of this in the glass itself. I show you here two details
from the MET’s autumn landscape window further demonstrating these effects,
the effects of Tiffany glass, and it’s rendering of the texture and the
solidity of the boulder on one side or light coming through the autumn foliage
on the other. In this detail from the Northrop memorial, it reveals that
Tiffany studios utilized every technique available. Here acid etching on flashed
glass to achieve the distinctive corona of the passionflower. American
Impressionists often people their garden pictures with women, but Northrop
generally did not. One exception is the window which still remains in the
setting for which it was created, dating to approximately the same time as the
Cochrane window. This lush garden interpretation was commissioned for
Swannanoa the grand commanding country home of Richmond, Virginia millionaire
James Dooley and his wife, Sally Mae. This was the mountain retreat for the Dooleys
who lived in a grand mansion in a park-like setting, Maymont. A wonderful
historic house by the way, which is open to the public and which is also graced by
a massive Tiffany window. Swannanoa, privately owned today, is
located high on the crest of the blue ridge mountains. Here the figure is the
personification of Sally Mae just having gathered, like Celia Thaxter
coming out of her garden, some flowers or greenery. The idealized woman garbed in a
flowing white classical gown rather than one of more contemporary fashion. The
figure aside, its composition conforms to that of the Cochrane and Beltzhoover
windows. She’s flanked by the same banks of foxglove on one side and hollyhocks
on the other with masses of marigolds and pink roses climbing the pergola. The
rendering of foxglove and hollyhocks in the Cochrane and Dooley windows suggest that Northrop may also have provided a
series of designs for Cyrus McCormick when he commissioned Tiffany studios to
design windows in 1922 in memory of his wife for St. Mary’s By the Sea in Carmel,
California. This second drawing labeled, “scheme #7” indicates that there
must have been at least seven different versions drawn from which Mr. McCormick
made his final selection. Similar subjects appear on two garden windows
that Tiffany installed at Lauralton Hall during the mid teens when he was
embellishing his country estate with a collection of windows from his studios
that he considered among the very best, further testament to Tiffany’s high
regard for Northrop’s work. These sadly destroyed when Lauralton Hall burned to
the ground in 1957. Agnes Northrop therefore, in her extraordinary
five decade-long career at Tiffany studios broke new barriers in a field
dominated by men in establishing herself as one of the leading designers of
stained glass windows. In connecting the worlds of landscapes and gardens with
painting and stained-glass Northrop created illusionistic garden pictures, visions of
light and color. Works that are at once intimate and complex, that are perennial
manifestations of the artistic environmental movement’s of the late
nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Thank you very much. I like to entertain questions, if
anybody has one. There are microphones here, in the auditorium. If you feel
reluctant to go to a microphone I’m happy to repeat your question. Good evening. Thank you so much for
coming to Washington, D.C. this evening. Could you talk a little bit about
your research process, for example how you found Agnes’ photographs and her
watercolors? Are these things that are already in the MET archives, or how do
you go about finding the things that you do? Well, good question. As Betsy eluted,
I’ve been in this world for a little while, and have talked to many, many,
many people and collectors. It’s interesting that the, sort of, the
memoir came from a long, long, long time Tiffany collector, who was extremely
closed about it. For many years, wouldn’t let me even see it.
Then, you know, I hate to say it, but finally and when he died his son
actually knew of my interest in this and finally made it available to me. How
he acquired it, I really don’t know. The photographs, there was a
group of her effects that turned up and that Lillian Nassau, that sort of Diane of dealing in Tiffany works of art had acquired early, early on. There’s no
history about how they got it, there is a whole chest of it. Many of the
personal photographs, for example, of Agnes Northrop came from that, as did
the wonderful photograph of the Vermont mountains. They have happily, very
generously given those to the MET, so those are in the MET’s collection. The
wonderful photographs of flowers and the like is part of a group of photographs
that came to light on their own by a
private collector in California. It’s a needle in a haystack kind of
research I hate to say. Yes. Just to repeat the question for those
who didn’t hear it, the question was that I had referred to the
last years of Northrop’s life were at the Gramercy Park Hotel in New York.
There is a Gramercy Park, sort of, surrounded by buildings, and did that
have any impact, did she mention that in her memoirs? She was 94
when she moved into the Gramercy Park Hotel, or maybe 93, so by then she was
very much winding down her work in designing
windows. I don’t think it had any influence on it, but you are absolutely
right that only residence in buildings around Gramercy Park are
given a key to that private park. Thank you, such a visual feast to see
your pictures today, and interesting I was at the Dooley Mansion just a couple
weekends ago, so it was nice to hear about that. I’m curious about the process of
staining glass, and I don’t know if this would go a little bit beyond your area,
specifically. I’m just intrigued by how detailed the, like you’re pointing
out that passion flower, and how this was the little lines in the there and
just the the wide range of colors within one piece of glass. Could you comment on
that a little bit? I could give another lecture on that topic.
I would be happy to do. It’s a very involved process, and many people
were involved in it. I got you essentially to the design and then the
large full-size cartoon with thick lines to allow for the leading
which is needed to join the individual pieces of glass together. Tiffany revolutionized how glass pieces
were actually held together as well with a completely new novel technique which
enabled these very tiny, in your regular shape, glass pieces to be fitted together. Then he established his own glassmaking studios in Corona also in Queens where he
brought over chemists and scientists from England and he directed
them in the making of many, many, many different kinds of glass. Available in the studios was a virtual library which you could go through stacks of myriad kinds of green, and they were striated, they were
textured, they were you know had a directional quality. These women,
these wonderful Tiffany girls, were the ones, and he deemed they were
particularly sensitive to color and also were more dexterous, frankly. It was up to them once you have this cartoon, and a small watercolor to
work with that collection of glass to identify the piece with the exact same
color you want for that particular pedal, for example, or leaf. They would then cut
it out and then it sort of it would be fastened to a great big sheet of glass
essentially. Replacing all the little individual pieces, which are now paper
from the cartoon, to form this great big mosaic which would be the window.
All the while, Tiffany was coming by particularly for the most important
windows some of these and would give his opinion and say, “no too much of
that” or “too little of that.” There are layers of glass that were applied on the
back and even the front might be just one additional layer of glass to alter
the color just in a very minute way. There was acid etching, there was
some cold painting on some of the glass, but by and large most of
it is just done with the glass itself. It’s a whole topic in and of
itself. Okay, maybe one more, hold on, two more. Oh, you want the
microphone? Okay, I’m not sure I see that. Oh, there you are. I wanted to thank you for giving me an appreciation of my hometown
that I never had because I grew up in Queens and our view was always, MET was my home away from home. I loved hanging out particularly in the
stained glass and so we were always looking across the East River. I never
knew all of this about Flushing and the botanical history, the nursery history of
my hometown. So thank you. I don’t think too many people do, but it
was really important. More recently having lived in New Jersey for 20 years
Frelinghuysen Arboretum and so I appreciate your familial connections
with the botanical, as well. I wanted to know, especially with this history of
Flushing, is there, are a lot of these churches of the places around New York
available to the public to view? Absolutely, I mean, some churches are
locked and you might have to wait for a Sunday or a day when
there’s somebody in the office, but never hesitate, I do it all the time. That wonderful the church, the Bowne Street Church in Flushing, is
definitely there with all of its windows. They are actually looking to do
some work to make sure they’re in the best of condition. They’re
very proud of what they have there. There are churches here, everywhere, let me
tell you. It’s the landscaping garden windows that are harder to find. Yes. Thank you. She was, yes, her grave is there. Great. I think one last question and
then we’ll adjourn upstairs. Two of the windows I showed are at the MET.
The autumn landscape window is in the Charles Engelhard Court just as you
enter the American wing, and the magnolias and iris window is in the Deedee Wigmore Gallery devoted to the art of Louis C. Tiffany on the first floor just
off the courtyard. Yeah, thank you so very much.

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