Hair Comb

Alexander Calder

Alexander Calder became the giant of twentieth-century American art that he is by pioneering new and innovative methods of creating sculptural work on all scales. By experimenting with seemingly innocuous and mundane materials such as wire and metal, Calder created the works of art he is now most well-known for: graceful mobiles, monumental stabiles, and early on in his career, the engaging Cirque Calder.
However, long before these sculptural triumphs, the seeds for another important and intimate body of work, his jewelry, were sown as just an eight-year old boy. Indeed his earliest jewelry pieces were made from fine copper wire, which he found in the streets and which he fashioned into miniature necklaces for his sister's dolls. As a maturing artist, and nearly simultaneous to his work on Cirque Calder, the artist returned to jewelry making, perhaps inspired by the twisted wire techniques used to create the characters populating his circus. Calder would go on to create jewelry throughout his career, including a wedding ring for his wife, Louisa.
While Louisa continued to be a muse for his wearable works, he also spontaneously created adornments for friends and family. In this tradition, Hair Comb was gifted to Zabeth Davidson. Zabeth and Jacques Davidson hosted a salon along the lines of Gertrude Stein's 27 rue de Fleurus, at Becheron near Tours in the Loire Valley during the 50s and 60s. Although Calder also continued to make jewelry as a method of earning supplemental income, he never accepted offers to design mass-produced items. Each piece of jewelry is unique and made by Calder's hand with the unconventional techniques and materials he pioneered. Hair Comb shows tool marks and unpolished surfaces, as the artist's ornaments often do, showing his direct hand in crafting the work.
Hair Comb is a delightful example of Calder's seemingly effortless abilities to sculpt wire into remarkable, balanced compositions. The spirals, a signature of the artist's oeuvre and a prominent hallmark of Hair Comb, resemble the delicately dancing elements of the artist's standing mobiles and serve to charmingly crown the wearer. Calder's jewelry fearlessly inhabits an ingenious space aside from convention, much like the artist himself.

Alexander Calder (1898-1976)
Hair Comb
Brass wire
6 1/2 x 5 in : 16.5 x 12.4 cm
Zabeth Davidson Collection, Saché (a gift from the artist circa 1954); Kristine Olson Collection, Portland, Oregon (a gift from the above in 1967); A gift from the above to the previous owner in 2009
This work is registered in the archives of the Calder Foundation, New York, under application no. A17847.