Clara and Tiffany Lamps

Yesterday, I celebrated SWAN day learning about Clara Driscoll and her work for Tiffany glass at the Driehaus Museum in Streeterville. It’s a museum that I’ve been meaning to go for a while. It’s this beautiful house on Erie that has intrigued me for almost two years. It has magnificent Halloween decorations; they have an enormous spider and web outside. I learned today that it’s a fairly new museum. It opened in 2008 and it wasn’t full-time until recently. The Tiffany glass exhibition is really its first exhibition even though it has been open for five years.

But what did the trick was a combination of finishing Clara and Mr. Tiffany and an exhibition of Louis Comfort Tiffany glass from the Driehaus collection on display. Several months ago, I learned about the role that women have historically had in stained glass. It was well documented that Tiffany had a whole Women’s department that chose and cut glass. However, it was only recently that historians have discovered that some of the women actually designed some of the work. I learned that Clara Driscoll was responsible for many of the designs of lamps that were very popular in the Tiffany line. I started reading Clara and Mr. Tiffany, a historical novel about her and her working relationship with Tiffany. And I was hooked. I have always loved Tiffany glass but this was an added bonus.

This past month, theDriehaus museum has been running tours with actors as Clara Driscoll and Agnes Northrup this month.  I was hoping to attend one. Sadly, it was canceled. However, there will be more this summer. Fortunately, we went on another tour that talked about the exhibition and made special note of Clara Driscoll. We saw several of her lamps on display. It was extraordinary! There is wisteria themed one that is simply breath-taking. The skill, the effort, the end result are mind-blowing. There is another lamp with beautiful pink peonies. These are truly works of art. I’ve never felt that way about lamps before.

Peony Lamp designed by Clara Driscoll
Peony Lamp designed by Clara Driscoll
Wisteria Lamp designed By Clara Driscoll
Wisteria Lamp designed By Clara Driscoll

The other objects on display are fairly impressive. There are several Tiffany windows, which feel like painted landscapes. There is perspective in them through glass layering. The mottled glass, confetti glass, etc. mentioned in the book are evident. Also, there are the amazing flower vases, which weren’t actually supposed to be used as vases (you were supposed to collect them and they were to act like flowers year round). Also, we learned that there is a style of glass making called Favrile, which produces iridescent glass. Apparently, the man who developed it, died with the secret. People have tried to approximate it but no one has managed. It’s also very toxic.

The house itself is also a marvel. There is intricate woodwork, milky blue-green tiles, incredibly intricate chandeliers and much more. I think the owners were really influenced by Moorish Spain. The ground floor is exquisitely furnished; some of the Tiffany glass normally resides there. There is one room, a library, with green wallpaper. It has a magnificent fireplace with beautiful inlaid work and a Greek inspired statue in the middle. Overhead is an explosion of color in a dome. The room manages to convey a garden without having many plants. It’s a room that deserves champagne.

Fireplace at Driehaus Museum
Fireplace at Driehaus Museum

I can’t wait to go back and learn more about the house. I highly recommend it but I’d also take the tour. Also they will have an exhibit on art nouveau jewelry next year. There will be Lalique in Chicago!!

Happy SWAN day!


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