Go: Cartier Exhibition at the Denver Art Museum

By Erika Winters

Cartier emerald and diamond necklace in platinum worn by the Countess of Granard
Cartier emerald and diamond necklace in platinum worn by the Countess of Granard. Cartier London, 1932.
Photo: Vincent Wulveryck, Cartier Collection © Cartier

The Denver Art Museum is celebrating 75 years of Cartier jewels in its upcoming exhibition titled Brilliant: Cartier in the 20th Century, which opens on November 16, 2014.

The show will highlight Cartier’s history and 20th century transformation through 250 works including an array of jewelry, timepieces, and precious objects created between 1900 and 1975. The Denver Art Museum–the sole worldwide venue for the exhibition–will feature pieces loaned by the Cartier Collection, museums, and private collections organized into the following seven themes.

From the Denver Art Museum:

Aristocracy and Aspiration: Focusing on objects from 1900–1918, this section features diamond, sapphire, rock crystal and pearl jewelry and enameled decorative items that showcase a refined and elegant aesthetic embraced by European royalty and aristocrats—and the wealthy Americans who aspired to join their social class.

Art Deco: New Outlook: Cartier was a leader in the innovative Art Deco movement of the 1910s to 1920s that highlighted a bold look with a new emphasis on color and geometry. The Maison utilized new materials in this era including jade, coral and black onyx.

Art Deco: Foreign Fascination: Cartier capitalized on the excitement generated by international events after World War I, such as the discovery of Tutankhamen’s tomb, to create original designs that incorporated exotic styles and materials including imported carved jade, lacquer and faience. Cartier’s exotic flair culminated in the colorful tutti-frutti style jewelry and sculptural mystery clocks.

Masculine View: While Cartier is most famous for women’s jewelry, they have always produced sleek, handsome items that appeal to men. Louis Cartier is credited with inventing the modern men’s wristwatch. The exhibition will include numerous models and styles, in addition to elegant and complex pocket watches. Cartier also designed beautiful cuff links, pocket items, cocktail and desk accessories, and inscribed cigarette cases, to name a few. Historic events such as Charles Lindbergh’s flight across the Atlantic, Franklin Roosevelt’s role in the Allies’ World War II victory and the American lunar landing were commemorated by inscribed gift items made by Cartier and featured in the exhibition.

Art of Smoking: At the turn of the century, smoking in polite society was largely limited to men and Russian women. As social norms loosened, cigarette smoking was adopted by all classes, and elegant smoking accessories became a necessity for fashionable women. This section features textured, enameled and jeweled cigar cutters, cigarette cases and lighters from 1907 through the 1940s.

Age of Glamour: The global depression affected Cartier’s business, but a wealthy, cosmopolitan clientele continued to purchase showy jewelry, clocks and accessories in platinum and massive yellow gold settings. This section highlights designs from the 1930s to 1960s preferred by celebrities and Café Society (as international jet-setters were sometimes known).

Icons of Style: The exhibition’s concluding section is devoted to Cartier’s most famous clients, including style icons Daisy Fellowes, the Duchess of Windsor, Princess Grace of Monaco, Dame Elizabeth Taylor and Mexican film star María Félix. Cartier’s original designs were essential to the self-expression of the individuals who shaped 20th century culture and fashion.

Brilliant: Cartier in the 20th Century • November 16, 2014–March 15, 2015

Denver Art Museum: 100 W 14th Ave Pkwy, Denver, CO 80204

Highlights from the exhibition include the Art Deco emerald and diamond necklace shown above and the following pieces, including the engagement ring worn by Princess Grace of Monaco and the crocodile necklace worn by María Félix.

Stomacher brooch in platinum with diamonds and sapphires. Cartier Paris, 1907
Stomacher brooch in platinum with diamonds and sapphires. Cartier Paris, 1907. Photo: Nick Welsh, Cartier Collection © Cartier

Engagement ring worn by HSH Princess Grace of Monaco, Cartier Paris
Engagement ring worn by HSH Princess Grace of Monaco. Platinum with a 10.48-carat emerald-cut diamond. Cartier Paris, 1956

Cartier crocodile necklace worn by María Félix
Crocodile necklace in gold with diamonds, emeralds, and rubies worn by María Félix. Cartier Paris, 1975.
Photo: Nick Welsh, Cartier Collection © Cartier

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