of American Art
445 North Park Avenue, Winter Park 32789
Admission: Adults $3, students $1, children under 12 free; free to all Friday 4:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. September through May
Hours: Tuesday to Saturday 9:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. (Friday to 8:00 p.m. September through May); Sunday 1:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m.
Location: On Park Avenue, just past the fancy shopping district
Could the Charles Hosmer Morse Museum of American Art be the best museum in Central Florida? Well, for my money, it’s hard to beat the world’s largest collection of Tiffany glass. That’s Louis Comfort Tiffany, the magician of stained glass who flourished at the turn of the twentieth century. The works on display here are absolutely ravishing and, if you have any interest in the decorative arts, your visit to Orlando will be poorer for not having found the time to visit this unparalleled collection.
When most people think of Tiffany glass they think of those wonderfully organic looking table and hanging lamps with the floral designs. Those are here, of course, as are some stunning examples of his large-scale decorative glass windows and door panels. But there’s much else, some of which may come as a surprise.
As brilliant a marketer as he was an artist, Tiffany saw the World’s Fair of 1893 as an opportunity to spread his fame worldwide. So he put his best foot forward by creating an enormous chapel interior for the exhibit. Everything in it, from a massive electrified chandelier, to a baptismal font, to intricate mosaic pillars to stunningly beautiful stained-glass windows was of Tiffany design. The surviving elements of the chapel have been lovingly restored by the Morse and displayed in a room that is entered through the chapel’s original, massive wooden doors.
The faces on Tiffany’s glass pieces were painted with powdered glass that was fused to clear glass, but much of the other detail and molding is created by the rich colors and tonal fluctuations in the glass itself. Tiffany is less well known as a painter, but several of his paintings, including some very deft watercolors from his worldwide travels, are to be seen here. There are also miniature glass pieces, vases in delicate, psychedelic-colored favrile glass, inkwells, jewelry, and other decorative objects.
The Morse’s collection focuses on the decorative arts and is extensive, comprising some 4,000 pieces. In addition to the permanent displays, the museum dips into its collection to mount special exhibits illuminating various aspects of American decorative arts, including “vignettes,” small rooms in which interior designers show off the museum’s collection of furniture and decorative objects as they might have looked in the well-to-do homes for which these lovely objects were created.
Nearby: Albin Polasek Galleries, Cornell Fine Arts Museum, Winter Park Scenic Boat Tour.
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