Many of the characteristics of art nouveau stained glass are common to the movement, such as organic figures and curved lines. Louis Tiffany, a glassmaker in the United States, experimented with a variety of new glassmaking techniques, making some art nouveau stained glass particularly easy to identify. Everyday objects, such as windows, were transformed into works of art as part of the art nouveau movement, which aimed to make decorative arts as important as fine arts.
The use of curved lines to create organic figures was a trademark of this art nouveau style, which was popular from the late 1800s until World War I. The use of floral motifs like vines, grasses, and leaves was also common. Female forms with long flowing hair and draped garments were frequently depicted, as were ornate and extravagant animal figures.
Art nouveau creators believed that any object could be turned into a work of art. Furniture, cookware, and home lighting, for example, were considered to have equal artistic value to paintings and drawings. Because stained glass windows were both functional and decorative, art nouveau stained glass was not only reserved for monumental structures like churches, but was also created for use in the home.
Louis Comfort Tiffany was the pioneer of art nouveau stained glass in the United States. Tiffany eschewed traditional glass-making methods in favor of techniques that resulted in new glass styles. Rather than using the traditional method of painting clear glass, Tiffany’s developed colored glass to create its pieces. Experiments in creating textured glass to give the appearance of depth or character were also carried out, but not with paint, but with the glass itself. Tiffany also used multiple layers of glass to give the illusion of depth and movement.
Tiffany’s glass did not share these characteristics with all art nouveau stained glass. Tiffany and other American glass artists are known for their extravagant use of opalescent glass, textured glass, and layered glass, as well as their experimental styles. Other artists, if they used these techniques at all, did so in a more conservative manner. While these characteristics are common in some stained glass, not all art nouveau stained glass was created in the same way. Art nouveau stained glass is more easily identified artistic elements like the curved line and organic figures.