5 Classic Table Lamps: Lighting from the Past

Go into any lighting store, and the variety of table lamps available can be staggering. Although modern production methods have opened up all kind of possibilities for designers, the vast range of designs we see today often owe a great deal to the wealth of styles that have come before. Let’s take a moment to look at some iconic moments in the history of table lamps lighting.

1. Argand Lamp

Portrait of James Peale beside an Argand Lamp

Although lamps have been in existence for centuries, it was the Argand lamp (named for its inventor, Aimé Argand, in 1780) that first provided a unit that could be placed on a table, and still provide enough light for families to gather around. Previous to this, lamps simply weren’t bright enough for this purpose, which can be difficult to imagine today.

Image Credit: Wikimedia

2. Victorian Lamps

Decorative arts in the Victorian era (1837-1901) were inspired by a variety of influences throughout the world, merging traditional styles and reinterpreting artwork from the Middle-East and Asia. Combined with improved production techniques, the era is defined by excessive decoration and ornamentation, and table lamps from this time reflected that aesthetic. With fringes, beading, stained glass and a whole host of decorative touches, you either love them or hate them! You can’t ignore, however, the enthusiasm and adventurous spirit that seems to mark all periods of prosperity. This is the underlying theme that designers returned to again in later periods.

3. Mission Lamps

A close up of the stained glass of a Mission lamp

Towards the end of the Victorian era, another style was emerging that couldn’t have been more different. Named ‘Mission Style’ after the Spanish Missions in the area, it was a simple style that used natural materials (usually oak), and was characterized by strong horizontal and vertical lines. Mission table lamps usually had a simple, pyramid shaped shade, often made from stained glass.

Image Credit: stock.xchng

4. Dragonfly Lamps

Close up of a dragonfly lamp shadeDespite the enduring popularity of the simpler Mission style lamps, the Art Nouveau movement that peaked in the late 19th- early 20th Centuries continued exploring decorative and organic forms, with an emphasis on flowing lines rather than simple geometry. One of the era’s most prominent artists in the US was Louis Comfort Tiffany, often credited with the iconic Tiffany lamps. Of these, the dragonfly design has proved to be one of the most enduring, and in a strange twist, it was recently discovered that it was not actually designed by Tiffany. Like many of the best known Tiffany light designs, it was actually the work of Clara Driscoll, who worked in his studios. Unrecognized in her lifetime, it is fitting that her work has stood the test of time.

Image Credit: Wikimedia

5. Art Deco Lamps

Example of an Art Deco LampFollowing the first World War, the world tried to return to normal, and for a while, a new sense of optimism crept in. The sense of discovery that informed the Victorian arts returned once again: archeology, ancient cultures, and technological progress. The dominant art form of the time was named many years later as Art Deco, which perfectly described the decorative emphasis of the era. Another similarity with the Victorian era can be seen in the variety of table lamps produced. Although there were many different styles explored by designers, you can still look at any of them today and be transported back to the roaring twenties. Sometimes the lamps used simple geometry, inspired no doubt by the emergence of skyscrapers. Other times, it borrowed imagery, particularly from ancient Egypt, and cast it in metal alongside swooping, aerodynamic forms.

Image Credit: iStockPhoto

So there’s a roundup of 5 classic styles that you may enjoy. Remember, when older styles remain popular, they’re usually a safe bet to buy, because it’s less likely they’ll go out of fashion anytime soon!

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2 Responses to 5 Classic Table Lamps: Lighting from the Past

  1. Pingback: A modern twist on Tiffany Dragonfly Lamps « Table Lamps Lighting

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