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An exceptional Tiffany window returns

Saturday, December 01, 2001

By Donald Miller, Post-Gazette Senior Editor

A luminous Tiffany Studios landscape window, once the crown jewel of a stately Georgian house in Greensburg, has returned to its home city.

Now on permanent display at the Westmoreland Museum of American Art, this work is a splendid addition to the several hundred Tiffany windows in the Tri-State region, by my unofficial count. Most of these windows enliven churches, but there also are fine floral examples at two resorts, Linden Hall and Nemacolin Woodlands, both in Fayette County.

Around 1905, Tiffany Studios created this window for the mansion of Thomas Lynch in Greensburg. It depicts his father's Irish cottage in Ballyduff, near Dungarvan, County Waterford. Ireland.(Westmoreland Museum of Art)

The Westmoreland Museum successfully bid on the window at Christie's New York on June 7. Now the museum is appealing to the public to help it raise $400,000 to meet the costs of purchase, restoration and installation.

Around 1905, Tiffany Studios created the 56 1/2-by-84-inch window for the mansion of Thomas Lynch at 414 W. Pittsburgh St., Greensburg. Lynch, who was general manager of the Frick Coke Co. in Connellsville, asked that Tiffany depict the cottage of his father, Patrick Lynch, who emigrated from Ireland to Uniontown in the 1850s.

The thatched cottage resembles the ancestral home of the Mellon family in Northern Ireland as well as many other Irish farmsteads. The Lynch family still owns the cottage located in Ballyduff, near Dungarvan, County Waterford.

The window consists of nine brilliantly colored panels, some containing as many as five overlays for tonal subtleties. The atmosphere suggests the approach of early evening. Art museum director Judith O'Toole said the cottage's red glass surface was etched away to suggest the house's whitewashed exterior. The deep red was retained, however, for the flowers in the cottage's window boxes.

 
 

Contributors may send checks designating the Tiffany window and made out to the Westmoreland Museum of American Art, 221 N. Main St., Greensburg 15601. Information: 724-837-1500 ext. 28.

   
 

In addition to the customary Tiffany use of slag glass to simulate open sky with scudding clouds, the window contains mottled, rippled, agate and confetti glass, also characteristic of the studio. In the confetti technique, bits of colored glass are suspended in a different colored matrix. Particular attention was paid to the trees, through which the sky seems to shimmer. Color plates were built up, or sandwiched, to create the effect.

A second cottage or barn occupies the distant center of the window, while a hedgerow of yellows and various hues dominates the foreground. The window is backlit though a diffusing surface that evens out the unvarying light. The Tiffany Studios signature appears loosely in black enamel at lower right, without its usual companion line, "New York." Apparently, there wasn't room.

Louis Comfort Tiffany (1848-1933) preferred the random effect of natural light on his glass, but that is seldom possible today with a work of museum quality. Tiffany also experimented with rheostats. He used one with his remarkable "Dream Garden," a 50-foot glass mosaic after a design by Maxfield Parrish still in the Curtis Building, Philadelphia. As the viewer watches, a timer causes artificial light to change as it plays on the iridescent mural.

The Lynch window has undergone substantial restoration. Over the years, it had sustained three or more cracks, and two strands of visible copper foil had held cracked glass pieces in place in the top middle panel. New York restorer Thomas Venturella removed egregious materials and cemented the original pieces naturally into place, O'Toole said. Venturella also works for the Charles Hosmer Morse Museum of American Art in Winter Park, Fla., owner of Tiffany's own windows and other collections.

The Lynch window was installed on the house's landing, overlooking the steep and broad quarter-sawn oak staircase and entrance hall. The house, which has been well-preserved, still reflects its Edwardian beginnings. It features ornate plaster ceiling decoration, a rococo music room and green marble fireplaces with brass decorations depicting rampant lions holding shields.

Lynch was surely familiar with Clayton, the Point Breeze house of his employer, Henry Clay Frick. Although the Lynch house was built after Clayton, it not only has similar wall coverings of decorated leather but also a dining room paneled in varnished mahogany.

Lynch managed the Frick Coke Co. from 1890 and led the firm through difficult times. There were the Monmouth Mine disaster of 1891, in which 109 men were killed in an explosion, and the Morewood Mine riot the same year. Nine miners were killed as management suppressed a strike.

According to Westmoreland curator Barbara L. Jones, Lynch took these events seriously and strove lifelong to improve miners' safety.

Lynch died in 1914, but his window remained in place for 40 years. In 1945, his son, the childless Thomas Jr., sold the house to Col. John W. Stiteler, who located the offices of the Coal Operators Casualty Co., now the Old Republic Insurance Co., in the house.

According to a 1947 office newsletter, the colorful window made the landing and stairs too dark for an office environment. So Stiteler moved the window to his country place in Rockwood, Somerset County, and put a single plate-glass window in its place. Stiteler's country house was subsequently sold twice, with the last owners consigning the Tiffany window to Christie's.

"We felt it was important to bring this window back to Greensburg, both because of its artistic value, as Tiffany was an internationally recognized American artist, and because it was commissioned for a house in this city, making it a significant piece of Greensburg history," Jones has written.

It is also a coup for the museum's permanent collection.


Donald Miller may be reached at millercentaur@aol.com.

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