Louis Comfort Tiffany became famous for his decorative arts ranging from leaded glass lamps to jewelry and furniture. However, Tiffany’s first ambition was to be a painter. Though preoccupied with the designs being produced at Tiffany Studios and Tiffany Furnaces, Louis Comfort was also a member of some of the most respected American painter’s associations including The National Academy of Design in New York, the American Society of Painters in Water Colors, and The society of American Artists. He also displayed a selection of his paintings in three World Fairs; Philadelphia, Paris, and Chicago.
Tiffany began painting as a young man, sketching what he observed on his travels throughout Europe. Orientalist painter Léon-Adolphe-Auguste Belly exposed the young artist to the exotic Eastern cultures that would continue to influence Tiffany’s designs throughout his career. In 1870 Tiffany traveled to North Africa and Egypt with fellow painter Swain Gifford, painting such works as “Snake Charmer at Tangier, Africa” and “On the Way between Old and New Cairo, Citadel Mosque of Mohammed Ali, and Tombs of the Mamelukes.” Tiffany experimented with many of the art movements of the day including The Hudson River School, Orientalism, and French Impressionism. Difficulty with the aspects of the drawn form in oil painting, specifically depth, proportion, and modeling, lead him increasingly to watercolor. Tiffany was drawn to portraying the effects of Tonality and Luminism in which the goal of the artist was to portray the mood of a landscape more than the direct observation of it. Tiffany documented his many travels through Europe, North Africa, the western United States and Canada using watercolor often mixed with gouache and pastels.