Alexander Calder (Lawnton, Pennsylvania, August 22, 1898 – New York, November 11, 1976) was an American sculptor known as the originator of the mobile, a type of moving sculpture made with delicately balanced or suspended shapes that move in response to touch or air currents. Calder’s monumental stationary sculptures are called stabiles. He also produced wire figures, which are like drawings made in space, and notably a miniature circus work that was performed by the artist.
In 1926, Calder began to make mechanical toys and to create his Cirque Calder, a miniature circus fashioned from wire, cloth, string, rubber, cork, and other found objects. Soon, his Cirque Calder became popular with the Parisian avant-garde. He also invented wire sculpture, or “drawing in space,” and in 1929 he had his first solo show of these sculptures in Paris at Galerie Billiet. A visit to Piet Mondrian’s studio in 1930, where he was impressed by the environment-as-installation, “shocked” him into fully embracing abstract art, toward which he had already been tending.
Dating from 1931, Calder’s sculptures of discrete movable parts powered by motors were christened “mobiles” by Marcel Duchamp. By 1932, he moved on to hanging sculptures which derived their motion from touch or the air currents in the room. They were followed in 1934 by outdoor pieces which were set in motion by the open air. At the same time, Calder was also experimenting with self-supporting, static, abstract sculptures, dubbed “stabiles” by Jean Arp in 1932 to differentiate them from mobiles. In 1935-1936 he produced a number of works made largely of carved wood. At Exposition Internationale des Arts et Techniques dans la Vie Moderne (1937) the Spanish pavilion included Alexander Calder’s sculpture Mercury Fountain.
During World War II, he continued to sculpt, adapting to a scarcity of aluminum during the war by returning to carved wood in a new open form of sculpture called “constellations.” Once the war was over, Calder began to cut shapes from sheet metal into evocative forms and would hand-paint them in his characteristically pure hues of black, red, blue, and white. His 1946 show at the Galerie Louis Carré in Paris, composed mainly of hanging and standing mobiles, made a huge impact. In 1951, Calder devised a new kind of sculpture, related structurally to his constellations
In addition to sculptures, Calder painted throughout his career, beginning in the early 1920s. He picked up his study of printmaking in 1925, and continued to produce illustrations for books and journals. His many projects from this period include pen-and-ink line drawings of animals for a 1931 publication of Aesop’s fables. As Calder’s sculpture moved into the realm of pure abstraction in the early 1930s, so did his prints. The thin lines used to define figures in the earlier prints and drawings began delineating groups of geometric shapes, often in motion. Calder also used prints for advocacy, as in poster prints from 1967 and 1969 protesting the Vietnam War.
As Calder’s professional reputation expanded in the late 1940s and 1950s, so did his production of prints. Masses of lithographs based on his gouache paintings hit the market, and deluxe editions of plays, poems, and short stories illustrated with fine art prints by Calder became available for sale.
Here you can see the artist's works that are part of the collection.