Alexander Calder, ‘Necklace’, circa 1940, Sotheby's

Property from a Distinguished Private Collection, New York, Sold to Benefit Charitable Initiatives

Executed circa 1940, this work is registered in the archives of the Calder Foundation, New York, under application number A28147.

From the Catalogue
“Calder’s jewelry may be seen as a sort of Surrealistic strategy to entrap the wearer into participating in an art performance, even to become bewitched. To wear the jewelry is to induce dreams and to become metamorphosed. It is typical of Calder and his art to be more allusive than first meets the eye.”

(Mark Rosenthal in Alexander S.C. Rower, Ed., Calder Jewelry, New York 2007, p. 67)

Sotheby’s is delighted to present an exquisite series of jewelry created by Alexander Calder during the 1940s and 1950s. From necklaces to brooches to pins and earrings, lots 1-11 display Calder’s unparalleled dexterity, each work containing tightly controlled coils of lustrous metal imbued with an unmistakably Calder quality; a continuous theme that runs throughout the artist’s jewelry practice. Punctuating this offering are works from three esteemed collections; Property from a Distinguished Private Collection, New York, Sold to Benefit Charitable Initiatives (lots 1, 2, 4, 8, and 9), which is highlighted by two stunning examples of the artist’s extremely rare necklaces crafted in gold (lots 1 & 2), as well as Property from the Jacqueline Fowler Collection (lots 5,6, and 7) and Property from the Collection of Otis and Velma Dozier (lot 11).

Calder brought the same genius for design and motion to his jewelry that elevated his sculptural practice into the realm of singular innovation. His practice of making jewelry further extended his ability to communicate his artistic ideals and deluge his inventive curiosity on a more intimate scale. Calder’s forays into jewelry began as early as 1929, mostly as gifts for intimate friends and family particularly for Louisa James, whom he married in 1931. Each work is individually designed and hand-made by the artist, displaying the signature working practice and grace that is present in his larger scale works.

Calder was an inveterate and incurable innovator, never happier than with tools and material at hand, and this insatiable impulse to create – to make – is as evident in his jewelry as in his sculptures. Initially, brass was more readily at hand in the war years, but soon Calder was able to also afford the more precious metals such as silver and gold. Calder’s sophistication in the metalsmith craft grew and he soon hammered the wires into flattened forms that are the basis of his great spiral brooches, bracelets, earrings and elaborate necklaces. This ability to turn basic materials into exquisite wearable art is perhaps one of the most striking qualities of these works. As Calder remarked, “I decided a long time ago that primitive art really is preferable to decadent art, just the way I’ve been told it is. So I’ve tried to remain as primitive as possible.” (Alexander Calder quoted in Daniel Marchesseau, The Intimate World of Alexander Calder, Paris 1989, p. 260).
—Courtesy of Sotheby's

Private Collection, Litchfield, Connecticut (acquired directly from the artist)
Gift of the above to the previous owner

About Alexander Calder

American artist Alexander Calder changed the course of modern art by developing an innovative method of sculpting, bending, and twisting wire to create three-dimensional “drawings in space.” Resonating with the Futurists and Constructivists, as well as the language of early nonobjective painting, Calder’s mobiles (a term coined by Marcel Duchamp in 1931 to describe his work) consist of abstract shapes made of industrial materials––often poetic and gracefully formed and at times boldly colored––that hang in an uncanny, perfect balance. His complex assemblage Cirque Calder (1926–31), which allowed for the artist’s manipulation of its various characters presented before an audience, predated Performance Art by some 40 years. Later in his career, Calder devoted himself to making outdoor monumental sculptures in bolted sheet steel that continue to grace public plazas in cities throughout the world.

American, 1898-1976, Lawnton, Pennsylvania