Lot 401
  • 401

Louis Comfort Tiffany

10,000 - 15,000 USD
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  • Louis Comfort Tiffany
  • Study for Grove of Academe
  • signed E.F.T (lower right)
    mat signed TIFFANY STUDIOS (center) and Louis C. Tiffany (lower right), and inscribed NO. 6748 (lower left), Sealer 1/2-1 (lower left), 14534 (lower right) and CURTIS PUBLISHING CO./PHILADELPHIA, PA (lower right)
  • watercolor and pencil on paper with mat


Private Collection, Chicago


Edward Bok, The Americanization of Edward Bok: The Autobiography of a Dutch Boy Fifty Years Later, 1923 (for an account of the Grove of Academe commission)
Kim Sajet, "From Grove to Garden: The Making of The Dream Garden Mosaic," Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, 1805-2005, Philadelphia, 2005, pp. 43-50 (for an account of the Grove of Academe commission)

Catalogue Note

Sotheby's would like to thank Paul Doros for his assistance with researching this lot.

In 1908, Edward Bok of Curtis Publishing Company was tasked with commissioning interior decorations for the company's newly constructed Philadelphia headquarters.  The building's foyer presented the most exciting artistic opportunity: a roughly fifteen by forty-nine-foot blank wall.  Bok placed great value on public art and was particularly attuned to the significance of the building's proximity to Independence Hall.  A grand mural in Curtis Publishing's entry was an excellent way to contribute art to the city and would receive tremendous exposure, thus delivering maximum benefit to the many visitors to the area.  With this intention and an open, eager mind, he set out to find an artist to fulfill his vision, not knowing how difficult a task it would be.

Edwin Austin Abbey was the first artist that Bok approached, and he was given full artistic license to pursue whatever subject he wished for the mural.  Abbey suggested Grove of Academe, a lush landscape with classical architecture populated by robed scholars and maidens.  He believed such a historical, aspirational scene would elevate Curtis Publishing Company and signify their standing within and commitment to the intellectual community. Bok enthusiastically accepted the subject, but the project was soon derailed due to logistics and costs.

Thus began a saga that lasted until 1914, during which time Bok approached almost a dozen artists to pursue the Grove of Academe for the mural. With every artist, there was some kind of setback that brought progress to a halt, and  the wall remained blank. Compelled to find a solution, Bok recalled the work of Louis C. Tiffany, whose stunning mosaic panel for the National Theater in Mexico City had impressed and inspired him.  He contacted Tiffany, who was thrilled by the prospect of constructing a mosaic on such a massive scale.

Tiffany submitted a handful of sketches for the Grove of Academe, including the present lot, but Bok declined them all, acknowledging that Tiffany's greatest strength was as a colorist.  With this, the pursuit of the Grove of Academe subject came to a close, and Bok enlisted the artist Maxfield Parrish to design a composition to be executed by Tiffany in mosaic.  The result was the magnificent Dream Garden mosaic, installed in 1915, and aptly proclaimed "the most wonderful favrile mosaic picture in America." Reflecting on the many year's long process in his autobiography, Bok wrote: "The Grove of Academe was to become a Dream Garden, but it was only after six years of incessant effort, with obstacles and interventions almost insurmountable, that the dream became true."