More than 2,500 people made a pilgrimage to the Charles Hosmer Morse Museum of American Art to tour the museum’s new $5 million wing during its debut over the weekend.
The Morse, home to the world’s most comprehensive collection of works by American artist Louis Comfort Tiffany, opened its long-awaited 12,000-square-foot addition on Feb. 19. To celebrate the public opening, the museum is offering free admission through March 20.
“The Morse Museum is the crown jewel of Winter Park’s cultural institutions,” said Ken Bradley, mayor of Winter Park. “The new wing promises to bring many more visitors to our city and increase awareness not only of the Morse’s amazing collection but of Winter Park as an arts destination.”
The expansion, which includes 6,000 square feet of additional exhibition space, provides for the first time long-term public access to the recently restored Daffodil Terrace from Tiffany’s celebrated Long Island home, Laurelton Hall, as well as 250 art and architectural objects from or related to the destroyed estate. Highlights include prize-winning leaded-glass windows, iconic Tiffany lamps, as well as art glass and custom furnishings.
“It is truly magnificent,” said Jennifer Chapin, a Winter Park resident and the first person through the entry on Saturday morning. “I arrived at the Daffodil Terrace at the same time as a woman who had been in line behind me, and we both just stood there in complete awe.”
The Daffodil Terrace, installed in a glass-enclosed gallery, serves as the centerpiece of the new wing. The 18-by-32-foot outdoor room exemplifies Tiffany’s unique and dramatic style. Supported by eight 11-foot columns that are topped with bouquets of glass daffodils, the terrace’s coffered ceiling is composed of hundreds of stenciled wood elements and molded tiles in three bays. The central bay features a skylight covered by six 10-foot grids of iridescent-glass tiles in a pear-tree motif.
The 10 new Laurelton Hall galleries deepen the Morse’s interpretations of Tiffany’s life and legacy. The artist directed every facet of the estate’s construction, from the room interiors and architectural details to an extensive scheme of gardens and fountains. The mansion was destroyed by a fire in 1957, 24 years after Tiffany’s death.
After the fire, Hugh F. McKean and his wife, Jeannette, who together assembled the Morse Museum’s collection, salvaged architectural elements, windows and other objects from the ruins of the estate. Over the next four decades, they continued to search out and collect objects from the estate that earlier had been auctioned, sold or given away. Photographs of interiors from the estate, which was covered extensively in contemporary magazines and journals, aided the museum’s efforts to evoke the true experience of Laurelton Hall through the installations in the new wing.
“The new galleries suggest aspects of the actual rooms designed and decorated by Tiffany during his lifetime,” said Laurence J. Ruggiero, director of the Morse Museum. “Visitors can no longer go to Laurelton Hall to appreciate Tiffany’s approach to design, but they can come to the Morse and, we hope, gain a more holistic sense of the man, his aesthetic, and the power of his imagination.”
Highlights from the dining-room installation, for example, include a 13.5-foot-high, mosaic-decorated marble mantelpiece that is one of Tiffany’s most forward-looking designs and a suite of six leaded-glass wisteria transoms. The living room installation features four leaded-glass panels depicting the four seasons—each from a single window from the Tiffany exhibit at the Exposition Universelle in Paris in 1900, for which the artist won a gold medal.
The Morse Museum, located at 445 N. Park Ave. in Winter Park, is owned and operated by the Charles Hosmer Morse Foundation and receives additional support from the Elizabeth Morse Genius Foundation. It receives no public funds.
The Morse Museum is open 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday and Saturday; 9:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. Friday; and 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday. Regular admission is $5 for adults, $4 for seniors, $1 for students, and free for children younger than age 12. All visitors are admitted free 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. on Fridays, November through April. For more information, call (407) 645-5311 or visit www.morsemuseum.org.