Hugh F. Mckean,
Collected Works By Louis Tiffany
Hugh Ferguson McKean, an artist, museum director and former president and chancellor of Rollins College who salvaged and collected many of the silken iridescent glass art works of Louis Comfort Tiffany, died at his home in Winter Park on Saturday. He was 86.
Mr. McKean died of cancer, his brother, Keith F. McKean, said.
In a career that spanned more than 60 years, Mr. McKean studied with Tiffany as a young artist, won awards for his work, founded an art museum and rose from art instructor to president, chancellor and trustee of Rollins, a private liberal arts college in Winter Park whose enrollment, curriculum, campus and endowments were expanded sharply from 1951 to 1969, during his tenure as president.
But Mr. McKean was perhaps best known as a conservator of the art created by Tiffany, the innovative designer who produced thousands of extraordinary pieces - wisteria lamps, Favrile vases, delicate mosaics, stained-glass windows and other works with the distinctive opalescent glow of Tiffany glass - between 1880 and 1930.
After Tiffany's death in 1933, his work gradually fell into disfavor and lost its value. Even after World War II, it was still possible to walk into a thrift shop in Manhattan and pick up a rosy flaring jack-in-the-pulpit vase by Tiffany or one of his ruffled Favrile bowls, although those who displayed such pieces at home then ran the risk of being regarded as tasteless or unknowing.
By 1953, Tiffany's sprawling mansion and four-acre estate, Laurelton Hall, at Oyster Bay, N.Y., where many of his works had been preserved, was sold for $10,000. And in 1957, a fire destroyed much of the estate, but many of Tiffany's art works survived.
After the fire, Mr. McKean, who had studied with Tiffany at Laurelton Hall in 1930, and his wife, Jeanette Morse Genius McKean, also an artist, were asked by a daughter of Tiffany to try to salvage some of the important pieces from the ruins. In his book, The `Lost' Treasures of Louis Comfort Tiffany, (Doubleday, 1980), Mr. McKean recalled rummaging through the ashes.
"I shook something muddy leaning against a tree," he wrote. "It rattled. The head of the wrecking company waiting to clear the property was with us. I asked him what it was. `That's one of the old man's windows,' he replied."
The muddy thing turned out to be a section of the famous "Four Seasons" windows, made for the Paris Exposition of 1900, and it and hundreds of other pieces were salvaged and bought by Mr. McKean and his wife. They became the core of their collections for the Charles Hosmer Morse Museum of American Art, which they had founded in Winter Park in 1942.
Since then, Tiffany glass has soared in popularity and value. Collectors vie for rarities, museums fill cases with Tiffany pieces, and some galleries profit handsomely from them. A Tiffany lamp was sold for a record $1.1 million at a recent Sotheby's auction.
Online Source - Sun - Sentinel . com
The New York Times - May 9, 1995