May Flowers at the Rakow Library: Design Drawings by the Tiffany Girls

Violets design drawing for Tiffany furnaces by Alice C. Gouvy and Lillian A. Palmié

The Rakow Research Library holds eight original Tiffany drawings: Branches Bearing Yellow Berries, Chestnut Leaves, Dandelion Plant, Marsh Marigold, Peonies, Thistle, Violets and Yellow Berries.  All of them except for Branches Bearing Yellow Berries have the titles handwritten on them.  Five of the drawings are signed by Alice C. Gouvy and two by Lillian A. Palmié (Peonies is the unsigned drawing and was most probably also completed by Gouvy or Palmié).  All of the drawings are watercolors that have the Tiffany Furnaces stamp, five of the drawings have the Enamel Dept. S. G .Co. (Stourbridge Glass Company) stamp, and three of the drawings are dated 1902.  Violets at 24 cm by 29 cm, is the smallest drawing and Chestnut Leaves measuring 48 cm by 66 cm, and Thistle at 64 cm by 45 cm, are the two largest.

Chestnut Leaves design drawing for Tiffany Furnaces by Alice C. Gouvy

Chestnut Leaves design drawing for Tiffany Furnaces by Alice C. Gouvy

These drawings were water damaged, most likely in the flood of 1972 when Hurricane Agnes struck the Corning area.  When I first saw them, I can remember seeing embedded grime, discoloration, tidemarks, and tears.  In 2007, the eight drawings were taken to The Westlake Conservators in Skaneateles, New York, where paper objects and photographic materials conservator, Michele Philips treated and matted these drawings.

The artists, Gouvy and Palmié, are documented in New Light on Tiffany: Clara Driscoll and the Tiffany Girls by Martin Eidelberg, Nina Gray and Margaret K. Hofer, 2007.  Lillian Palmié was born in Brooklyn, NY around 1871-74 and was at Tiffany Studios by 1897.  Her twin sister, Marion Palmié also worked for the firm.  Alice Carmen Gouvy was born in Cleveland, OH, around 1870-75.  She graduated from Cleveland School of Art in 1894, moved to New York and probably started working for Tiffany then.  Clara Driscoll’s work is unraveled in this book from her letters to her family.  She was employed by Louis Comfort Tiffany as a creative artist from the late 1880s until around 1909 and led a staff of women known as the “Tiffany Girls” that included Gouvy and Palmié.  They worked behind the scenes and made a valuable contribution to Tiffany’s creations.  Gouvy and Palmié and other ladies of a small female staff were part of the enamel and pottery department under Driscoll’s direction.  Their drawings are the first step in the process of creating designs and decorative objects produced by the enamel department.  Importantly, Driscoll reveals that Tiffany generally approved of her ideas, and rarely did he make changes to her designs.

Branches Bearing Yellow Berries design drawing for Tiffany Furnaces by Alice C. Gouvy and Lillian A. Palmié

Branches Bearing Yellow Berries design drawing for Tiffany Furnaces by Lillian A. Palmié

Two of the drawings, Thistle and Marsh Marigold were on loan to the New York Historical Society through May, for inclusion in their traveling exhibition titled A New Light on Tiffany: Clara Driscoll and the Tiffany Girls at The Henry Morrison Flagler Museum in Palm Beach, Florida.

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  1. […] Museum’s Rakow Research Library holdings of Tiffany Studios materials include drawings from the design department that Clara Driscoll oversaw, trade catalogs, cartoons, and unique archival materials from Arthur Nash. Nash and his sons […]