Among the most celebrated features of the Smith Art Museum are its original Tiffany stained glass windows. Manufactured by the Tiffany Glass Company of New York City, the windows were installed in 1895 as the museum was being completed. The windows are rare examples of Tiffany work commissioned for a museum building; the only other known windows made especially for a museum were at the Henry Field Memorial Art Gallery at the Art Institute of Chicago and have not survived.
The windows in the Smith Art Museum mark a turning point in the work of Louis Comfort Tiffany. Prior to the mid-1890s, his stained glass windows were mostly for churches. However, by 1894, the year the museum windows were shipped from the studio, he had begun designing windows with secular themes. Those in the Japanese Arms and Armor Gallery commemorate famous authors such as Goethe and Moliere, bearing their crests and dates of birth and death. In the front lobby, windows celebrate the disciplines originally housed in the museum: art, science and literature. In what is now the Hasbro Games Art Discovery Center, the distinguished marks of book printers are incorporated in the window design.
The magnificent architectural design of the building, including the windows, is the product of museum founder George Walter Vincent Smith’s artistic sensibility, and more broadly, the Aesthetic Movement in American art. An exhibit outside the Classical Cast Gallery by the elevator chronicles the intricate restoration of the Tiffany windows by Guarducci Stained Glass Studios. In the D’Amour Museum of Fine Arts, across the Quadrangle, you can view The Lightbearer, a window designed by Edward Emerson Simmons and executed by Tiffany Studios.
The Tiffany stained glass windows in the George Walter Vincent Smith Art Museum were recently fully restored; the last refurbished window was put into place in the fall of 2018. The work was completed thanks to generous funding by the Institute of Museum and Library Services, as well as support from a grant from the Springfield Cultural Council, a local agency supported by the Massachusetts Cultural Council.
More Tiffany and Art Glass Exhibitions – Summer 2012
In Company with Angels: Seven Rediscovered Tiffany Windows
Tiffany Lamps: Articles of Utility, Objects of Art
Contemporary Sparkle: Art Glass from the Permanent Collection
50th Anniversary Celebration of Studio Glass: Pioneers of Studio Glass