Movement: Kinetic Art
Alexander Calder's Famous Artworks
'The Flying Trapeze," 1925
"Mercury Fountain," 1937
"Lobster Trap and Fish Tail," 1939
"Arc of Petals," 1941
"Stillman House Mural," 1952
"La Grande Voile," 1966
Alexander Calder was an American artist, best known for his contribution to kinetic sculpture as the creator of the mobile. Alexander Calder's sculptures
received immense appreciation and critical acclaim for their uniqueness.
Alexander Calder's Early Life
Alexander Calder, born in 1898, in Lawnton, Pennsylvania, was the son of well-known sculptor Stirling Calder and portrait artist Nanette Lederer. He was named after his grandfather, Alexander Milne Calder, was responsible for the enormous statue of William Penn atop City Hall in Philadelphia, making Calder the third generation of the family to pursue the fine arts as a career.
He was raised in his parents’ studio, posing for figurines from infancy — “The Man Club” by Stirling Calder used him as a model aged four, the year he produced his first sculpture, a clay elephant. When his father contracted consumption in 1905, he and his siblings were left in the care of family friends as his parents moved to a farm in Arizona to recuperate.
When the artist was eight years old, the family moved to California where the basement of their Pasadena home became Calder’s first studio. He began fashioning jewelry for his sister’s dolls and board games and animals made of discarded wood and brass. Over the next few years, the household moved another three times — to San Francisco, Philadelphia and New York, where he met and befriended Everett Shin in high school. Together, they built a series of automatic trains dependent on a gravity-powered system, an experiment that resulted in Calder’s fascination for applied kinetics and engineering.
Alexander Calder's Creative Development
After graduating from the Stevens Institute of Technology in New Jersey in 1919, he tried his hand at a number of vocations such as mechanics, hydraulic engineering, and drafting for the New York Edison Company. Close to his twenty-fourth birthday, he set sail on the “H.F. Alexander” as it began its voyage to New York from San Francisco, working on the deck and stoking the steam. Eventually, he ended up at a logging camp in Aberdeen, taking a job as a timekeeper while deliberating his options for the future.
In 1922, Calder decided to move to New York, initially studying drawing at the 42nd Street Public School before moving on to the Arts Students League the following year, where he enrolled for painting under John Sloan, Thomas Hart Benton, Kenneth Hayes Miller and George Luks. To support himself, he sold illustrations to the National Police Gazette, covering performances at the Barnum & Bailey Circus and the Ringling Brothers.
In 1926, Calder went to France to visit the Academie de la Grand Chaumiere and settled in Paris, establishing an atelier in Montparnasse. During this period, he began making the series of wire toys and figures that would eventually become “Calder’s Circus”. His time in Paris allowed him greater exposure to the artistic trends in the cultural capital and he became close friends with Jean Arp, Marcel Duchamp, and Joan Miro, all of whom had a deep interest in motion and movement. He joined the Abstraction-Creation group, seeking a process by which color could move through space. Within a year, he exhibited a series of new kinetic structures based on air currents rather than motor power, dubbed ‘mobiles’ by Duchamp.
He traveled frequently between studios in Europe and America and met Louisa James, the grandniece of the illustrious Henry and William, on one such voyage in 1929 and the couple married two years later. They returned to the United States in 1933, bought a ranch in Roxbury and started a family. Alexander Calder’s artwork
from this time focuses on outdoor sculpture, though he did a substantial amount of costume and stage design for Martha Graham and Erik Satie. In 1943, he became the youngest artist ever to have a retrospective at the Museum of Modern Art. Art lovers can buy Alexander Calder's sculptures online
Alexander Calder's Later Life
Towards the end of his career, he worked primarily from his workshop in Indre-et-Loire in France. With the assistance of his son-in-law Jean Davidson, he published his pictorial autobiography in 1966. Calder died suddenly of unspecified causes 10 years later.
Alexander Calder's Major Exhibitions
1925 - New York Society of Independent Artists, New York
1926 - Artists Gallery, New York
1926 - New York Society of Independent Artists, New York
1927 - Weyhe Gallery, New York
1929 - Galerie Billiet-Pierre Vorms, Paris
1929 - Galerie Neumann-Nierendorf, Berlin
1929 - Fifty-Sixth Street Galleries, New York
1933 - Sociedad de Cursos y Conferencias, Residencia de Estudiantes, Madrid
1938 - Artek Gallery, Helsinki
1940 - Home of Mr. and Mrs. Wallace K. Harrison, Huntington, Long Island
1940 - Willard Gallery, New York
1943 - Pierre Matisse Gallery, New York
1943 - Addison Gallery of American Art, Andover, Massachusetts
1943 - The Museum of Modern Art, New York
1947 - Boyd-Britton Associates, Chicago
1947 - Portland Art Museum, Oregon
1947 - John Herron Art Institute, Indianapolis
1947 - San Francisco Museum of Art
1947 - Mattatuck Historical Society, Waterbury, Connecticut
2010 - Gagosian Gallery, New York
2011 - Gagosian Gallery, London
2013 - Cahiers d'Art, Paris
2013 - Adam Gallery, Bath, England
2013 - Ben Brown Fine Arts, Hong Kong
2015 - Museo Jumex, Mexico City
2015 - Grand Palais des Champs-Élysées, Paris
2015 - Whitney Museum of American Art, New York
Alexander Calder's Museums/Collections
Art Institute of Chicago
Guggenheim Museum, New York
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
National Galleries of Scotland, Edinburgh
National Gallery of Art, Washington D.C.
National Gallery of Australia, Canberra
Stadel Museum, Frankfurt
Peggy Guggenheim Collection, Venice