Window with Hudson River Landscape by Louis Comfort Tiffany is a favorite of Dave Murray, the Museum’s Operations Manager.
One of the larger pieces of glass art we have in the Museum is a wonderful stained glass window, created by Tiffany Studios in Corona, NY, in 1905. This window was designed to sit in the north wall of a Gothic Revival mansion built in Irvington-on-the-Hudson, NY, and captures the lush naturalistic scene of the Hudson River Valley in full summer glory, as seen from this hilltop location.
In the dark winters, it reflected the warmth and hues of summer. The lush blue-green hills fall into the shimmering water, while the clematis and trumpet vines arch over the view, with hollyhocks reaching for the sky. The stained glass itself is alive with deep ethereal blues, august purples, erupting reds and yellows, and shade-changing greens. Normally, a stained glass window of this size would need a supporting grid system to carry the weight of the glass, but in this case Tiffany hid the supporting grid in the horizontal lines of the river, the hills, and the sky. The indigenous floral surround of the stained glass design pulls you into the scene, vaulting to the distant sunlight occluded by the large pieces of marbleized blue/white glass.
Large stained glass windows are designed to fit into a piece of architecture and join with the structural elements that support it. In a museum setting, these windows are usually disembodied from their former structures and displayed on their own. The marvelous aspect of this particular window is that it is framed in a five-panel Neo-Gothic arch with carved trefoil and quatrefoil motifs. The Neo-Gothic arch is entwined with swirling vines and becomes a trellis for this view of a fading horizon. It is an exceptional example of mixing the old with the new. The gothic floral motifs delineate and echo the free-flowing flowers and vines. Nature is in full celebration in this secular scene that becomes ubiquitous, and perhaps even omnipotent, in its power to present a growing, breathing landscape. In essence, this enchanting stained glass window becomes an archetypal view of all rivers and lakes.
Growing up on a large fruit farm on Lake Michigan with huge expanses of water and sky, I have always been more comfortable being outside. This window reaches out to me as if in a dream. I am enveloped by it. I am enriched, and yet it is a transcendent experience. It touches a universal intrinsic reality.
View Window with Hudson River Landscape in the Museum’s collections browser.