It is my dearest wish to help young artists of our country to appreciate more the study of nature, and to assist them in establishing themselves in the art world.

–Louis Comfort Tiffany

It was this purpose that in 1918 led Louis Comfort Tiffany to establish a foundation to operate Laurelton Hall-his estate at Cold Spring Harbor, Long Island-as a summer retreat for young artists and craftspeople. Tiffany, son of the founder of the famous New York jewelry store Tiffany & Co., was himself a painter, interior decorator, and, of course, renowned innovator in the design of glass objects and windows.

The Louis Comfort Tiffany Foundation provided no formal instruction at Laurelton Hall. Rather, it offered an unfettered atmosphere where artists could work in a beautiful natural setting by day and enjoy a touch of elegance by night.

Tiffany hoped that Laurelton's sixty acres of gardens and woodlands, his art collection and art library, and the estate's lavish amenities would combine to nourish the imagination and further the development of the young artists in residence. As time went on, the Foundation expanded its scope to include exhibitions and a modest publications program.

Tiffany died in 1933, but the Laurelton program continued until 1946, when the estate was sold. After the sale of Laurelton, the Foundation changed its purpose from the operation of an artists' retreat to the bestowing of grants to artists. These grants were awarded annually through a competition in painting, sculpture, graphics, and textile design, a range of categories reflecting Tiffany's manifold talents and interests. Each year, hundreds of applicants sent examples of their work to the National Academy of Design, where the work was exhibited and judged.

To nurture creative talent, the Foundation initiated grants including: (1) a fine-arts purchase program through which artworks were purchased and donated to institutions; (2) an apprenticeship program enabling young craftspeople to work with masters; and (3) a program of direct grants to young painters and sculptors. In 1980, the grant programs were consolidated into a biennial competition for which the candidates are nominated by a national committee. Today, the Tiffany Foundation makes biennial monetary awards in painting, sculpture, printmaking, photography, video, and craft media-thus continuing the approach of direct grants to artists originally adopted by the trustees in 1946.

Emerging American artists and craftspeople are recognized every two years by a series of monetary grants. The awards go to the artists whose work shows promise, but who have not yet received widespread critical or commercial recognition.

Award winners are selected from nominees proposed by the Foundation's trustees, previous recipients, artists, critics, and museum professionals throughout the United States. The nominees submit various materials which are reviewed by a jury consisting of a committee of Foundation trustees, as well as a changing roster of artists, critics, and museum professionals. Winners are selected for their talent, promise, and individual artistic strength.

The 1999 Louis Comfort Tiffany Foundation Biennial Competition Awards have been administered by the American Federation of Arts.