LAMA BLOG

Jewelry by Margaret De Patta

January 11, 2019

After training as a sculptor and painter at the California School of Fine Arts, California native Margaret De Patta began studying at the New York Arts Students League. It was here that the young artist was first immersed in the brand of Modernism that sprung from the influx of European émigré artists in the 1920s New York art scene. It wasn’t until 1929,  after having returned to San Francisco, that De Patta took to the jewelry medium that would inevitably distinguish her career.

Margaret De Patta pin, c. 1955
February 17, 2019 Modern Art & Design Auction

In San Francisco, De Patta took on an apprenticeship with jeweler Armin Hairenian at the Art Copper Shop. Over the course of this intense training, De Patta began including the foundational tenets  of fine art, such as light, tension, and organic structure, within her metal craft. De Patta increasingly approached her works as sculptures bearing complex compositions “scaled to a wearable size.” This method placed her on the forefront of the infant Wearable Art Movement. In 1940,  De Patta began studying with the famed Bauhaus master, Laszlo Moholy-Nagy, who was quick to identify De Patta’s talents. During this “critical year of study,” De Patta perfected her signature ‘floating’ stone composition.

Margaret De Patta cufflinks, c. 1935
February 17, 2019 Modern Art & Design Auction

Within her writings, De Patta asserted that “contemporary jewelry must characterize our times with its emphasis on space and structure, strong light, open forms, cantilever, floating structures and movement.” While De Patta’s works presented an apex of modern design, she held to the philosophy that they should be accessible to the masses. While intermittently creating custom pieces for some clients, De Patta sold the bulk of her works through her catalog collection, and in several stores and farmers markets, including the Los Angeles Farmers Market on Third and Fairfax. Though De Patta often struggled with dismissive fine art critics and institutions, her jewelry was prominently featured alongside the works of Alexander Calder and Jacques Lipchitz in MoMA’s 1946 exhibition, “Modern Handmade Jewelry.” This show was the first of its kind to acknowledge “wearable art as a movement in America.” De Patta was also later included in a series of exhibits, beginning in 1948 at the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis, that celebrated the small group of “artist jewelers” who were bringing craft “into the realm of art” in the postwar period. It’s hard to overstate De Patta’s monumental influence on modern design, especially in light of her faith in the “democratic” and “accessible” art of the everyday. Los Angeles Modern Auctions (LAMA) is very proud to present fifteen examples of De Patta’s profound works in our auction on Sunday, February 17, 2019.

Margaret De Patta ring, c. 1945
February 17, 2019 Modern Art & Design Auction

 

Lauria, Jo. “Margaret De Patta: Pioneer of Modern Studio Jewelry.” Ornament, vol. 35, no. 5, 2012, pp. 34-39,6-7.


PARTIAL LOT INFORMATION:

Lot 164
Margaret De Patta

Pin
Studio, designed c. 1955
Signed with impressed artist’s mark and inscribed “Sterling” to underside
1.875″ x 3.75″ x .625″
Provenance:  The artist; Thence by descent
Literature:  Space, Light, Structure: The Jewelry of Margaret De Patta. U. Ilse-Neuman and J. M. Muñiz. 2012. 96 for a similar example illustrated.

Estimate: $7,000 – 10,000
February 17, 2019 Modern Art & Design Auction

Lot 169
Margaret De Patta

Cufflinks (2)
Studio, designed c. 1935
One with impressed artist’s mark and inscribed “Sterling”
.625″ x .625″ x 1″
Provenance:  The artist; Thence by descent

Estimate: $2,500 – 3,500
February 17, 2019 Modern Art & Design Auction

Lot 171
Margaret De Patta

Ring
Studio, designed c. 1945
Signed with impressed artist’s mark and inscribed “Sterling” to band
1.125″ x .875″ x 1.125″
Provenance:  The artist; Thence by descent
Literature: Space, Light, Structure: The Jewelry of Margaret De Patta. U. Ilse-Neuman and J. M. Muñiz. 2012. 113 for a similar example illustrated from her production line.

Estimate: $3,000 – 5,000
February 17, 2019 Modern Art & Design Auction

CHECK BACK ON JANUARY 30TH FOR ADDITIONAL LOTS BEING POSTED

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