Friday, December 23, 2016

Twenty Five Year Old Francis Quirk Honored With Tiffany Foundation Fellowship in 1932

The biographies of Francis Quirk list him as having had a Tiffany Foundation Fellowship, but we wondered ‘what did this mean exactly?’ As we looked into it we were more and more impressed with this accomplishment.  

After some hunting, we learned that some of the Foundation’s papers were at the Archives of American Art near the National Portrait Gallery in Washington. When we visited the facility a lovely young woman, Meghan from West Virginia was extremely helpful in providing the microfilm and teaching how to use the machine. Even with her expert guidance, the process of scrolling through the microfilm was headache inducing, but ultimately well worth the effort.
Lousi Comfort Tiffany Supporter of Francis J. Quirk
Louis Comfort Tiffany- Creator of the Foundation

The famous glassmaker and pioneer in decorative arts, Louis Comfort Tiffany established the Tiffany Foundation in 1919. The idea behind it was that it would help young artisans of talent by giving them the opportunity to hone their craft at his 80 acre estate Laurelton Hall in Cold Spring Harbor, New York. In 1932 he would add a gallery at 65 -67 East 56th Street in New York City to display and sell their works. The combination would hopefully accelerate their careers.
Concord Minuteman Statue by Daniel Chester French who selected Tiffany Fellow Francis Quirk
Concord Minuteman Statue by Daniel Chester French

Abraham Lincoln Sculpture by Daniel Chester French who selected Tiffany Fellow Francis J. Quirk
Abraham Lincoln Sculpture by Daniel Chester French

The Fellowships were open only to men older than 20 and younger than 30. These talented artisans were selected from a pool of hundreds of applicants by a panel of experts that included luminaries such as Daniel Chester French who sculpted sitting Abe in the Lincoln Memorial and impressionist painter Childe Hassam

Rainy Day Boston by Childe Hassam who awarded Francis J. Quirk a Tiffany Fellowship
Rainy Day Boston by Childe Hassam Toledo Museum of Art

Fellows were admitted in two groups of five who were at Laurelton for a 3 month periods; either May to July or August through October. They were provided with meals and had full access to the facilities including the tennis, bowling and squash court. There were restrictions on what they could paint or sculpt in that they were to focus on “landscape and decorative composition” as Tiffany felt they could learn more in this fashion “than by working from the human figure.”

In scrolling through the documents there were numerous pages of minutes from Board meetings. Interestingly, during the intervening century the nature of minutes has not changed that much. They were strikingly similar to the minutes of companies and non-profits that I am involved with today. One fascinating aside was the companies that the foundation was invested in- they included the Atchinson, Topeka and Santa Fe Railroad and American Tobacco.

But the minutes contained no references to our man Francis Quirk. But then eventually we came to pamphlets about the program and they listed the awardees. After looking through about 10 of the pamphlets- Eureka! There was Francis J. Quirk on the Fellows list in 1932. He would have been 25 years old and on his way! Beyond that mention, we found no other references to the Mid-Century Master.

The research made one thing clear- that Francis Quirk had received a significant honor in winning the Tiffany Fellowship. The reviewers look at thousands of paintings from hundreds of candidates each year.

There was one additional find in the microfilm in a document that was marked “Confidential” It appears that the Tiffany Foundation was contracted in World War 2 to develop Camouflage technology. The contract ran from 1942-1948.

You can learn more about the Louis Comfort Tiffany Foundation here. You also can see many items from Laurelton Hall at the wonderful Morse Museum in Winter Park, Florida. 

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