Wednesday, 23 November 2016

Winfield Fine Art in Jewellery


I have just completed an object condition review of the Plastics Historical Society collection which features some of the very first man-made plastics and has been cared for by MoDiP since 2009. During the course of my project, a selection of brooches caught my eye which was really quite surprising as I typically ‘don’t do jewellery’. But there is something quite different about these particular items, cast in acrylic and dating back to the 1940s. Intrigued, I wanted to learn more. 

PHSL : 48.1
 The six pieces in question are all linked to Armand G. Winfield (1919 – 2009), an American inventor and pioneer in the field of plastics. Originally a student of geology and anthropology, Armand particularly enjoyed working on the preservation of specimens and this is where his interest in plastics began when he discovered the possibility of encasing artefacts in acrylic; a new, transparent, lightweight, shatter-resistant material. By 1945, Winfield had created one of the first mass production methods of clear acrylic embedding and he soon turned his attention towards producing objects which he could sell.

Armand & Rodney Winfield, 1946. (Schon, 2003)
His brother Rodney (an art student at the Cooper Union, New York) was unimpressed by Armand’s crude attempts to make saleable items so he assembled a group of fellow students to create original, miniature artworks for his brother to embed. Together they founded the gallery/workshop Winfield Fine Art in Jewellery, with pieces selling from $5.00 to over $100.00 in post war America (equivalent to approximately $85 - $1600 today) (Winfield 1979). 

PHSL : 48.2

Most major, mid-20th Century design movements have been represented within the work these artists produced including montage, collage, assemblage, abstraction, surrealism, cubism, minimalism and biomorphism and many went on to become famous painters, sculptors, writers, and designers (Schon 2003). Two that we have identified with work featured in the PHS collection are: Lilly Ascher (PHSL: 48.2, above) who formed miniature abstract sculptures with beads and wire and Betty Smith (PHSL:48.3, right) who painted bright, freely formed surrealist abstractions. 

PHSL : 48.3
 If you want to find out more, visit http://www.modernsilver.com/winfieldfineart.htm for a comprehensive and fascinating account of this rather brilliant man. 

Katherine Pell, (MoDiP Administrator)

References
Schon, M., 2003. Winfield Fine Art in Jewelry: a Fusion of Art and Scientific Discovery (online). Mississippi: Modern Silver Magazine. Available from: http://www.modernsilver.com/winfieldfineart.htm (Accessed 26 September 2016).

Schon, M., 2009. Remembering Armand Winfield (online). Mississippi: Modern Silver Magazine. Available from: http://www.modernsilver.com/rememberingarmandwinfield.htm (Accessed 26 September 2016).

Syracuse University Libraries., 2006. Armand G. Winfield Papers (online). New York: Syracuse University Libraries. Available from: http://library.syr.edu/digital/guides/w/winfield_ag.htm (Accessed 26 September 2016).

Winfield, A., 1979. Clearly a Work of Art. Antiques and the Arts Weekly, 6 July 1979. Connecticut: The Bee Publishing Company.

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