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The Norton Presents First Major Retrospective of Designer David Webb’s Jewelry, 1960-1975

Jan 16, 2014 - Apr 13, 2014


The Norton Museum of Art will present the first retrospective of famed American jewelry designer David Webb, whose creations are inextricably linked to the heady and free-wheeling spirit of the 1960s and early 1970s. David Webb: Society’s Jeweler will bring together 80 extraordinary examples of Webb’s jewelry from necklaces and rings to pieces made in hammered gold, jade, coral, enamel, and precious stones. The exhibition will also feature preparatory drawings and special displays that offer behind-the-scenes insights into the making of Webb’s jewelry, as well as photographs, magazine spreads, and advertisements that demonstrate the taste-making position Webb held in American high society. The exhibition is on view Jan. 16 through April 13, 2014.


“This exhibition will put Webb’s designs in the context of his era and demonstrate how Webb perfectly met the needs and desires of that zeitgeist to create memorable and dazzling objects d’art,” said Exhibition Curator Donald Albrecht. “At the height of his fame in the ‘60s and early ‘70s, he created official gifts of state for the White House. His client the Duchess of Windsor called him ‘Fabergé reborn,’ and Jacqueline Kennedy dubbed him a modern-day Cellini.”

The exhibition will trace the evolution of Webb’s style from his elegant variations on flowers in the 1950s to the muscular aesthetic of his Vogue-named “fantastic bestiary” that characterized his work in the 1960s and continued throughout the early 1970s. Inspired by travel and almost weekly visits to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Webb created distinctly modern, Pop-Art spins on historical forms and techniques from across the globe. Webb also worked closely with celebrity clients like Doris Duke and Elizabeth Taylor to create unique, bespoke pieces.

“The Norton Museum of Art is thrilled to present the first retrospective of David Webb’s work,” said Executive Director Hope Alswang. “His story is truly an American one of self-invention, and his groundbreaking designs captured the spirit of his time and continue to influence jewelry design today.”

David Webb: Society’s Jeweler includes these themes:

·         Signature Stylesexplores just that, including his line of “fantastic bestiary,” inspired by animals and other natural forms; the ways in which he updated historical motifs from sources ranging from China to Mexico, Greece, and India; and his fascination with bold, geometric forms, including the art deco. This section will also include a selection of original design drawings, which show the pieces of jewelry in the conception phase.

·         Rousing Receptionexamines the social and critical acclaim given to Webb and his work. The section profiles the women who bought and commissioned Webb jewelry. Editorial layouts of Webb’s jewelry in publications like Vogue, Harper’s Bazaar, and Town & Country will underscore how his bracelets, rings, brooches, and necklaces complemented the era’s fashions, from severely simple sheaths to exotic, wildly patterned garments.  Webb’s jewelry regularly appeared in Hollywood films, and excerpts from several, featuring Doris Day, Susan Hayward, and Lana Turner, among others, wearing Webb’s creations are included in the exhibition.

·         Superb Techniquesfocuses on the remarkable workmanship of Webb’s jewelry. There also will be video of contemporary workers in the Webb studio demonstrating the enameling, jewel-setting, and casting that set Webb’s pieces apart.

The exhibition’s galleries are being designed by architect Peter Pennoyer and interior designer Katie Ridder. Husband and wife, Pennoyer and Ridder also designed the David Webb flagship boutique and atelier on Madison Avenue, which opened in April 2013. The pair created the boutique as a series of stylish salons, and look to create the same sense of luxury and intimacy for the exhibition’s galleries.

About David Webb

Webb was born in Asheville, N.C. in 1925, and as a youth served as an apprentice to his uncle’s silversmith shop. In 1942, at the age of 17, he moved to New York where he attracted the attention of stylish and wealthy socialite Antoinette Quilleret, who helped Webb found an atelier that soon gained a devoted following of high-fashion figures. By the 1960s, Webb’s clientele included Doris Duke, Diana Vreeland, and Elizabeth Taylor, among others, for whom Webb’s dynamic jewelry perfectly suited their larger-than-life personalities.  At the height of production Webb employed 100 jewelers. In 1963, Webb opened a retail salon on East 57th Street, where he remained until his untimely death at age 50 in 1975. The store, now at 942 Madison Avenue, continues to carry on his legacy of extraordinary design and masterful workmanship.

About the Norton Museum of Art

The Norton Museum of Art is a major cultural attraction in Florida, and internationally known for its distinguished permanent collection featuring American Art, Chinese Art, Contemporary Art, European Art and Photography. The Norton is located at 1451 S. Olive Ave. in West Palm Beach, FL., and is open Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Thursday, 10 a.m. to 9 p.m.; and Sunday, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. (Closed on Mondays and major holidays). General admission is $12 for adults, $5 for students with a valid ID, and free for Members and children ages 12 and under. Admission is half price on Thursdays. Special group rates are available. West Palm Beach residents receive free admission every Saturday with proof of residency. Palm Beach County residents receive free admission the first Saturday of each month with proof of residency. For additional information


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