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Thursday, 27 January 2011

Artist's Jewels

We all need a bit of light relief. After hours of slow chippings and scrapings at my dissertation (channelling D.J's poetical method), a few glasses of wine and some distractions along the way, panic begins to set in. I haven't finished the draft yet, it is dragging on and edging towards my next deadlines...genuinely impossible deadlines. So no talk of work today, just a little surrealist escape.

In Barcelona I saw an exhibition of over 300 works exploring artists, from Modernism to the Avant Garde, who found themselves straying in to the world of jewellery design. With pieces of jewellery displayed in conjunction with sculptures, paintings, and photographs the exhibition was fabulously curated to suggest the relationship between 'art' and 'craft'. Upon reflection these pieces of jewellery became small scale sculptures produced by artists such as Alexander Calder, Georges Braque, Picasso and Salvador Dali.

Salvador Dali's jewellery was fantastically bejewelled and often focussed upon iconic images from his paintings so that they become dream objects.

“My art encompasses physics, mathematics, architecture, nuclear science – the psycho-nuclear, the mystico-nuclear – and jewelry – not paint alone,” Dali wrote in 1959, “My jewels are a protest against emphasis upon the cost of the materials of jewelery. My object is to show the jeweler’s art in true perspective – where the design and craftsmanship are to be valued above the material worth of the gems, as in Renaissance times.”

Alexander Calder's jewellery was my highlight, casting fantastic metal silhouettes and echoing the motion and flight of his aerials. Calder began making jewellery for his sister's dolls at the age of 6, for the rest of his life he carried wire and pliers in his pockets because he claimed he thought best in wire.

Angelica Houston wearing a piece of Calder's jewellery

Mark Rosenthal described the work perfectly when he wrote: 'In a lot of ways, this stuff isn’t very wearable at all, I think of the wearer as being sort of bewitched by the wearing of it but also like something surreal come to life, a surreal manifestation. There’s something so extravagant about these pieces, they almost transform the person wearing them.”

I will admit to only being able to offer you a small glimpse in to what is clearly a rich and largely unexplored topic, but I enjoyed doing a little research, a little light relief. And, breathe...


  1. I agree with Rosenthal. It transforms the wearer. Defamiliarization is what Surrealism is all about. Good luck with your dissertation!

  2. Thank you for publishing this excellent article exploring the subject of Artist's Jewels !

    Guard well your spare moments. They are like uncut diamonds. Discard them and their value will never be known. Improve them and they will become the brightest gems in a useful life.

    ~Ralph Waldo Emerson

    Surrealism is destructive, but it destroys only what it considers to be shackles limiting our vision.
    Salvador Dali

  3. All the best with your dissertation, I'm confident that you'll do well. Be confident, be yourself and seek divine help and guidance always and you'll just ace this. Take care and be well.

  4. I really enjoyed this post and the photos of the fantastic creations. Good luck with your dissertation, I am sure you will do a great job on it, you express yourself so very well.

  5. I've become obsessed with finding those impractically perfect Dali pieces.

    You're an excellent writer, I thoroughly enjoy the topics you discuss. Dissertation based, or "off topic".

  6. Francesca, this stuff is what excites me about art, and why I will be obsessed with Picasso and Calder for the rest of my life! I quickly grow bored of people that say artist's need to have that recognizable style (meaning make a million pieces a in variations of one theme). Art is about making stuff in as many different ways as possible!! That's what makes an artist interesting, and their work inspiring! Just had to share that... great post!