Clara Walcott Driscoll
(1861–1944), a belatedly celebrated Cleveland artist now known to have
been responsible for many of the famous lamps long attributed to her employer Louis Comfort Tiffany along with the celebrated “Tiffany” mosaics in Lake View Cemetery’s Wade Chapel. Born Clara Pierce Wolcott in Tallmadge, Ohio, she enrolled in the Cleveland Institute of Art (CIA), shortly after it was founded in 1882 as “the Western Reserve School of Design for Women.” As noted in a May 27, 1888 Plain Dealer article, Clara earned $20 a week when she started to work for Tiffany, and factory records indicate that she probably made little more than $35 a week, even after her salutary achievement in Paris for the firm, twelve years later. When she won a Bronze Medal at the 1900 Paris world’s fair for a dragonfly lamp as he had designed for Tiffany Glass Company, it was one of the rare moments when word got out that Tiffany did not, himself, design every product his company’s advertising attributed to his elegant and extravagant hand.
A traveling exhibition of her designs for Tiffany visited five venues between 2007 and 2012, making stops in New York, The Netherlands, Germany, New Mexico, and Florida. “A New Light on Tiffany: Clara Driscoll and the Tiffany Girls,” the fascinating catalog, was published in 2007. As Jeffrey Kastner commented in the New York Times on February 25 that year, the catalog by Martin Eidelberg, Nina Gray, and Margaret K. Hofer records “the kind of detective story that historians fantasize about: one that gives credit where credit is long overdue and in the process rewrites what had previously seemed like settled history.”
Photograph of Clara Driscoll in her workroom at Tiffany Studios, with Joseph Briggs
Poppy Inkwell attributed to Clara Wolcott Driscoll, Tiffany Studios
(The Cleveland Museum of Art, Bequest of Charles Maurer 2018.289)
It was at Cleveland’s Central High, notes a Cleveland Institute of Art profile of its now famous alumna, that “Clara came under the influence of Harriet Louise Keeler (1846-1922), an Ohio naturalist who at one point served as school principal” and is “now known as the author of The Wild Flowers of Early Spring: A Study of One Hundred Flowers Growing in the Suburbs of Cleveland (1894) and Our Northern Shrubs and How to Identify Them: A Handbook for the Nature-Lover (1903). No doubt Clara’s affection for flowers and curiosity about the natural world was enhanced by her studies under Miss Keeler.” Dennis Barrie sees her as a very important figure. See https://www.cia.edu/news/stories/breaking-tiffanys-glass-ceiling-clara-wolcott-driscoll-1861-1944 and “Out of Tiffany’s Shadow, A Woman of Light,”: NYTimes https://www.nytimes.com/2007/02/25/arts/design/25kast.html