Maker & Muse: Women and Early Twentieth Century Art Jewelry Exhibition

  • CHICAGO, Illinois
  • /
  • November 03, 2014

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Mrs. W.H. (Elinor) Klapp (American, 1845-1915), Brooch, c. 1895-1914. Collection of the Bronson Family. Photograph by Firestone and Parson.

The Richard H. Driehaus Museum in Chicago presents the major exhibition Maker & Muse: Women & Early Twentieth Century Art Jewelry, opening February 14, 2015.  

Maker & Muse is comprised of works drawn from the Collection of Richard H. Driehaus and prominent private and public collections throughout the United States. Driehaus Museum founder and art collector Richard H. Driehaus began acquiring Art Nouveau and Arts and Crafts jewelry in the 1990s and has never publicly shown his collection before. Additional pieces are being loaned from museums and private collectors from across the country including the Newark Museum, Tiffany & Co. Archives, and the Chicago History Museum.  

The exhibition features more than 250 stunning pieces of jewelry created between the late Victorian Era and World War I. During this vibrant period, jewelry makers in the world’s centers of design created audacious new styles in response to the growing industrialization of the world and the changing role of women in society. Their work—boldly artistic, exquisitely detailed, hand wrought, and inspired by nature—became known as art jewelry.  

Frederick James Partridge (English, 1877-1942) for Liberty & Co. (English, established 1875), Tiara with Corn Design, c. 1900. Collection of Richard H. Driehaus. Photograph by John A. Faier, 2014, © The Richard H. Driehaus Museum.

“The urge for a new aesthetic emerged simultaneously in many countries at the turn of the century,” says Elyse Zorn Karlin, Exhibition Curator. “Art jewelry styles are as unique to the regions in which they were created, but together were defined by a rebellion against the strictures of the past and a look toward an exciting, less-encumbered future. This exhibition is the most extensive look to date of the sheer diversity and beauty of art jewelry during this period, and offers a new and groundbreaking perspective on woman’s role within that world.”  

Women were not only the intended wearers of art jewelry during the early twentieth century, but an essential part of its creation. From the world’s first independent female jewelry makers to the woman as artistic motif, the art jewelry of the new century reflected rapid changes in definitions of femininity and social norms.  

Exemplary examples of necklaces, brooches, bracelets, pins, rings, jeweled and enameled boxes, pendants, buckles, cloak clasps, accessories, and tiaras are featured in Maker & Muse. Each of the Museum’s second-floor galleries is devoted to jewelry showcasing the five areas of design and fabrication: the Arts and Crafts Movement in Britain, Art Nouveau in France and Belgium, Jugendstil in Germany and Austria, Louis Comfort Tiffany in New York, and American Arts and Crafts in Chicago. Each gallery explores the historic social milieu associated with these movements, accompanied by selected contextual objects of the period.   

“The true beauty and value of art jewelry lies in the artist’s vision and mastery of technique, rather than in the sum value and size of precious metals and stones. Each of the works in the exhibition is truly a complete work of art in miniature,” says Mr. Driehaus. “I’m delighted to exhibit my jewelry collection for the first time for Driehaus Museum visitors to enjoy, and am honored to be joined by the distinguished collectors and museums who recognize and celebrate their artistic quality. Together, these works tell a complete story of many jewelers’ aspirations, techniques, and accomplishments.”  

Highlights include four revival-style works by Mrs. Newman of London, who paved the way for female jewelry makers of the British Arts and Crafts movement; a daring brooch depicting the female nude form by the consummate French jeweler René Lalique; a Jugendstil pin by the Wiener Werkstätte, to be worn by the hostesses of Vienna’s premier Cabaret Fledermaus; rare designs by Julia Munson, the first director of Louis Comfort Tiffany’s jewelry studio; and exceptional works from Chicago’s distinguished Kalo Shop, founded by Clara Barck Welles.

The companion book Maker & Muse: Women and Early Twentieth Century Art Jewelry (The Monacelli Press) features essays by prominent experts in the jewelry field with each revealing new research about the unique women who created or inspired art jewelry. The book’s authors include Elyse Zorn Karlin, exhibition curator; Yvonne Markowitz and Emily Stroehrer of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; Janis Staggs, of the Neue Galerie, New York; Jeannine Falino, Independent Curator, New York; and Sharon Darling, Historian, Chicago. The publication is comprised of stunning, full-color images by primary photographer John A. Faier and features a preface by collector Richard H. Driehaus.   

For more information about the exhibition please visit:                                                                       

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