- Alexander Calder
bgcolour = #EEDD82
name = Alexander Calder
imagesize = 170px
caption = Alexander Calder
birthname = Alexander Calder
birthdate = birth date|1898|7|22|mf=y
deathdate = death date and age|1976|11|11|1898|7|22|mf=y
New York, NY
Stevens Institute of Technology, Art Students League of New York
Cirque Calder(1926-1931), Aztec Josephine Baker, International Mobile (Philadelphia), Flamingo (Chicago, 1976)
Alexander Calder (22 July 1898 – 11 November 1976), also known as Sandy Calder, was an American sculptor and
artistmost famous for inventing the mobile. In addition to mobile and stabile sculpture, Alexander Calder also created paintings, lithographs, toysand tapestryand designed carpets.
Lawnton, Pennsylvania, on July 22, 1898, Calder came from a family of artists. His father, Alexander Stirling Calder, was a well-known sculptor who created many public installations, a majority of them located in Philadelphia. Calder’s grandfather, sculptor Alexander Milne Calder, was born in Scotlandand immigrated to Philadelphia in 1868. Calder’s mother, Nanette Lederer Calder, was a professional portrait painter who studied at the Académie Julianand the Sorbonnein Paris from around 1888 until 1893. She then moved to Philadelphia where she met Alexander Stirling Calder while studying at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts. [ [http://www.herbertpalmergallery.com/main_pages/artists/calder_nanette_bio.html Herbert Palmer Gallery - Nanette Calder ] ] Calder’s parents were married on 22 February 1895. His older sister, Margaret “Peggy” Calder, was born in 1896. Her married name was Margaret Calder Hayes, and she was instrumental in the development of the UC Berkeley Art Museum. [Hayes, Margaret Calder, Three Alexander Calders: A Family Memoir. Middlebury, VT: Paul S Eriksson, 1977.]
In 1902, at the age of four, Calder posed nude for his father’s sculpture "The Man Cub" that is now located in the
Metropolitan Museum of Artin New York. In that same year, he completed his earliest sculpture, a clay elephant. [Calder, Alexander and Davidson, Jean, Calder, An Autobiography with Pictures. New York: Pantheon Books, 1966, p. 13.]
Three years later, when Calder was seven and his sister was nine, Stirling Calder contracted
tuberculosisand Calder’s parents moved to a ranch in Oracle, Arizona, leaving the children in the care of family friends for a year. [See website (Wikipedia blacklisted URL)—www.suite101.com/article.cfm/american_artists/81069] The children were reunited with their parents in late March, 1906 and stayed at the ranch in Arizona until fall of the same year. [ [http://www.calder.org/ Calder Foundation ] ]
After Arizona, the Calder family moved to Pasadena, California. The windowed cellar of the family home became Calder’s first studio and he received his first set of tools. He used scraps of copper wire that he found in the streets to make jewelry and beads for his sister’s dolls. On January 1, 1907, Calder’s mother took him to the Tournament of Roses and he observed a four-horse-chariot race. This style of event later became the finale of Calder’s wire circus shows. [Calder, Alexander and Davidson, Jean, Calder, An Autobiography with Pictures. New York: Pantheon Books, 1966, pp. 21-22.]
In 1909, when Calder was in the fourth grade, he sculpted a dog and a duck out of sheet brass as Christmas gifts for his parents. The sculptures were three dimensional and the duck was kinetic because it rocked when gently tapped. These sculptures are frequently cited as early examples of Calder’s skill. [ [http://www.sfmoma.org/espace/calder/calder_childhood.html Alexander Calder: Childhood Sculpture ] ]
In 1910, Stirling Calder’s rehabilitation was complete and the Calder family moved back to Philadelphia, where he briefly attended the
Germantown Academy, and then to Croton-on-Hudsonin New York. [ [http://www.sfmoma.org/espace/calder/calder_childhood.html Alexander Calder: Childhood Sculpture ] ] In Croton, during his early high school years, Calder was befriended by the painter Everett Shinnwith whom he built a gravity powered system of mechanical trains. As Calder described:
: "We ran the train on wooden rails held by spikes; a chunk of iron racing down the incline speeded the cars. We even lit up some cars with candle lights." [Calder, Alexander and Davidson, Jean, Calder, An Autobiography with Pictures. New York: Pantheon Books, 1966, p. 31.]
After Croton, the Calders moved to Spuyten Duyvil to be closer to the
Tenth Street Studio Buildingin New York, where Stirling Calder rented a studio. While living in Spuyten Duyvil, Calder attended Yonkers High.
In 1912, Stirling Calder was appointed acting chief of the Department of Sculpture of the
Panama Pacific International Expositionin San Francisco. [ [http://calder.org/chronology/period/1898-1930/10 Calder Foundation ] ] He began work on sculptures for the exposition that was held in 1915. During Alexander Calder’s high school years between 1912 and 1915, the Calder family moved back and forth between New York and California. In each new location Calder’s parents reserved cellar space as a studio for their son. Toward the end of this period, Calder stayed with friends in California while his parents moved back to New York so that he could graduate from Lowell High School in San Francisco. Calder graduated in the class of 1915.
Although Calder’s parents encouraged his creativity as a child, they discouraged their children from becoming artists, knowing that it was an uncertain and financially difficult career. In 1915, Calder decided to study mechanical engineering after learning about the discipline from a classmate at Lowell High School named Hyde Lewis. Stirling Calder arranged for his son's enrollment at the
Stevens Institute of Technologyin Hoboken, New Jersey.
Calder joined the football team during his freshman year at Stevens and practiced with the team all four years, but he never played in a game. He also played
lacrosse, at which he was more successful. He was a member of the Delta Tau Deltafraternity. He excelled in the subject of mathematics.
In the summer of 1916, Calder spent five weeks training at the Plattsburg Civilian Military Training Camp. In 1917, he joined the Student’s Army Training Corps, Naval Section, at Stevens and was made guide of the battalion. :"I learned to talk out of the side of my mouth and have never been quite able to correct it since." [Calder, Alexander and Davidson, Jean, Calder, An Autobiography with Pictures. New York: Pantheon Books, 1966, p. 47.]
Calder received a degree from Stevens in 1919. For the next several years, he worked a variety of engineering jobs, including working as a hydraulics engineer and a draughtsman for the New York Edison Company, but he was not content in any of the roles.
In June 1922, Calder started work as a fireman in the boiler room of the passenger ship "H. F. Alexander". While the ship sailed from
San Franciscoto New York City, Calder worked on deck of the Guatemalan Coast and witnessed both the sun rising and the moon setting on opposite horizons. As he described in his autobiography:
: "It was early one morning on a calm sea, off
Guatemala, when over my couch — a coil of rope — I saw the beginning of a fiery red sunrise on one side and the moon looking like a silver coin on the other".
The "H.F. Alexander" docked in San Francisco and Calder traveled up to Aberdeen, Washington where his sister lived with her husband, Kenneth Hayes. Calder took a job as a timekeeper at a logging camp. The mountain scenery inspired him to write home to request paints and brushes. Shortly after this, Calder decided to move back to New York to pursue a career as an artist.
Having decided to become an artist, Calder moved to New York and enrolled at the Art Students' League. While a student, he worked for the "
National Police Gazette" where, in 1925, one of his assignments was sketching the Ringling Brothers and Barnum and Bailey Circus. Calder became fascinated with the circus, a theme that would reappear in his later work.
In 1926, Calder moved to
Paris. He established a studio at 22 rue Daguerre in the Montparnasse Quarter. At the suggestion of a Serbian toy merchant, he began to create toys with articulation. He never found the toy merchant again, but, at the urging of fellow sculptor Jose de Creeft, he submitted his toys to the Salon des Humoristes. Later that fall, Calder began to create his " Cirque Calder", a miniature circus fashioned from wire, string, rubber, cloth, and other found objects. Designed to fit into suitcases (it eventually grew to fill five), Calder could travel with his circus and hold performances on both sides of the Atlantic. He gave elaborately improvised shows, recreating the performance of a real circus. Soon, his " Cirque Calder" [http://ubu.artmob.ca/video/Calder-Alexander_Le-cirque.avi] [http://www.sfmoma.org/espace/calder/calder_cirque.html] (usually on view at the Whitney Museum of American Art, but currently under renovation until Oct. 2008) became popular with the Parisian avant-garde. Some months Calder would charge an entrance fee to pay his rent. [http://www.nga.gov/education/classroom/counting_on_art/popups/pop_calder_1.htm] [http://www.ubu.com/film/calder.html] In 1927, Calder returned to the United States. He designed several kinetic wooden push and pull toys for children, which he had mass-produced by the Gould Manufacturing Company, in Oshkosh, WI. His originals, as well as playable replicas, are on display in the Berkshire Museumin Pittsfield, Massachusetts.
In 1928, Calder held his first solo show at a commercial gallery at the Weyhe Gallery in
New York City. In 1934, he had his first solo museum exhibition in the United States at The Renaissance Societyat the University of Chicago.
In 1929, Calder had his first solo show of wire sculpture in Paris at Galerie Billiet. The painter
Jules Pascin, a friend of Calder's from the cafes of Montparnasse, wrote the preface.
In June 1929, while traveling from Paris to New York, Calder met his future wife, Louisa James, grandniece of author
Henry Jamesand philosopher William James. They married in 1931.
While in Paris, Calder met and became friends with a number of avant-garde artists, including
Joan Miró, Jean Arp, and Marcel Duchamp. A visit to Piet Mondrian's studio in 1930 "shocked" him into embracing abstract art.
Cirque Caldercan be seen as the start of Calder's interest in both wire sculptureand kinetic art. He maintained a sharp eye with respect to the engineering balance of the sculptures and utilized these to develop the kinetic sculptures Duchamp would ultimately dub as "mobiles". He designed some of the characters in the circus to perform suspended from a thread. However, it was the mixture of his experiments to develop purely abstract sculpture following his visit with Mondrian that lead to his first truly kinetic sculptures, manipulated by means of cranks and pulleys.
By the end of 1931, he had quickly moved on to more delicate sculptures which derived their motion from the air currents in the room. From this, Calder's true "mobiles" were born. At the same time, Calder was also experimenting with self-supporting, static, abstract sculptures, dubbed "stabiles" by Arp to differentiate them from mobiles.
Calder and Louisa returned to America in 1933 to settle in a farmhouse they purchased in
Roxbury, Connecticut, where they raised a family (first daughter, Sandra born 1935, second daughter, Mary, in 1939). Calder continued to give " Cirque Calder" performances but also worked with Martha Graham, designing stage sets for her ballets and created a moving stage construction to accompany Eric Satie's " Socrate" in 1936.
His first public commission was a pair of mobiles designed for the theater opened in 1937 in the
Berkshire Museumin Pittsfield, Massachusetts.
Calder's first retrospective was held in 1938 at George Walter Vincent Smith Gallery in
Springfield, Massachusetts. In 1943, the Museum of Modern Arthosted a well-received Calder retrospective, curated by James Johnson Sweeneyand Marcel Duchamp.
Calder was one of 250 sculptors who exhibited in the
3rd Sculpture Internationalheld at the Philadelphia Museum of Artin the summer of 1949. His mobile, "International Mobile" was the centerpiece of the exhibition and hangs in 2006 where it was placed in 1949.
In the 1950s, Calder increasingly concentrated his efforts on producing monumental sculptures. Notable examples are ".125" for
JFK Airportin 1957, "La Spirale" for UNESCOin Paris 1958 and "L'Homme" ("Man") for Expo '67 in Montreal. Calder's largest sculpture, at 20.5 m high, was "El Sol Rojo", constructed for the Olympic gamesin Mexico City.
In 1966, Calder published his "Autobiography with Pictures" with the help of his son-in-law, Jean Davidson.
In June 1969, Calder attended the dedication of his monumental stabile "“La Grande Vitesse”" located in the city of
Grand Rapids, Michigan. This sculpture is notable for being the first public work of art in the United States to be funded with federal monies; acquired with funds granted from the then new National Endowment for the Artsunder its “Art for Public Places” program.
Calder created a sculpture called "WTC Stabile" (also known as "The Cockeyed Propeller" and "Three Wings"), which in 1971 was installed at the entrance of the
World Trade Center's North Tower. When Battery Park Cityopened, the sculpture was moved to Vesey and Church Streets. [cite news |url=http://www.ifar.org/911_public2.htm |title=Public Art at the World Trade Center |author=Wenegrat, Saul |publisher=International Foundation for Art Research |date=2002-02-28 |accessdate=2007-07-27] It stood in front of 7 World Trade Centerwhen it was destroyed on September 11, 2001. [ [http://www.loc.gov/loc/lcib/0211/911-treasures.html Lives and Treasures Taken, The Library of Congress] Retrieved 27 July, 2007.]
In 1973, Calder was commissioned by
Braniff International Airwaysto paint a full-size DC-8-62 as a "flying canvas", In 1975, Calder completed a second plane, this time a Boeing 727-227, as a tribute to the U.S. Bicentennial.
Calder died on 11 November 1976, shortly following the opening of another major retrospective show at the Whitney Museum in New York. Calder had been working on a third plane, entitled "Tribute to Mexico", when he died.
Two months after his death, Calder was posthumously awarded the
Presidential Medal of Freedom, the United States' highest civilian honor, by President Gerald Ford. However, representatives of the Calder family boycotted the 10 January 1977 ceremony "to make a statement favoring amnesty for Vietnam Wardraft resisters". [ [http://www.medaloffreedom.com/FAQ.htm Presidential Medal of Freedom website: Frequently Asked Questions page] ] .
In 1987, The Calder Foundation was founded by Calder's family. The Foundation not only serves as his official Estate, but also "runs its own programs, collaborates on exhibitions and publications, and gives advice on matters such as the history, authenticity, and restoration of works by Calder." [ [http://calder.org/foundation/page/trustees.html Calder Foundation website: Trustees page] ] The U.S. copyright representative for the Calder Foundation is the
Artists Rights Society[ [http://calder.org/home/page/about.html Calder Foundation website: Copyright and Disclaimers page] ] .
In 2003, nearly 30 years after his death, an untitled work of his sold for $5.2 million at Christie's New York. [ [http://artsalesindex.artinfo.com/artsalesindex/aps/lots/8345195 Auction Results: Alexander Calder's Untitled] ]
"How can art be realized?
Out of volumes, motion, spaces bounded by the great space, the universe.
Out of different masses, tight, heavy, middling--indicated by variations of size or color--directional line--vectors which represent speeds, velocities, accelerations, forces, etc. . . .--these directions making between them meaningful angles, and senses, together defining one big conclusion or many.
Spaces, volumes, suggested by the smallest means in contrast to their mass, or even including them, juxtaposed, pierced by vectors, crossed by speeds.
Nothing at all of this is fixed.
Each element able to move, to stir, to oscillate, to come and go in its relationships with the other elements in its universe.
It must not be just a fleeting moment but a physical bond between the varying events in life.
Abstractions that are like nothing in life except in their manner of reacting." [Alexander Calder, "Comment réaliser l'art?" from Abstraction-Création, Art Non Figuratif, no. 1, 1932]
:::: - From Abstraction-Création, Art Non Figuratif, no. 1, 1932.
: Reporter: "How do you know when its time to stop [working] ?"
: Calder: "When it's dinnertime". [Stamberg, Susan (2008-07-22). " [http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=92736081&ft=1&f=3|Alexander Calder's Jewelry Gets Its Due, Finally] ", NPR: Morning Edition. Retrieved 2008-07-29.]
:::: - From a television interview
Hannover, Germany Rotterdam, The Netherlands Stuttgart, Germany Berlin, Germany Crown Center, Kansas City, Missouri Tel Aviv, Israel Universidad Central de Venezuela gouacheon paper, Honolulu Academy of Arts
* "Dog" (1909), folded brass sheet; this was made as a present for Calder's parents
* "The Flying Trapeze" (1925), oil on canvas, 36 x 42 in.
* "Elephant" (c. 1928), wire and wood, 11 1/2 x 5 3/4 x 29.2 in.
* "Two Acrobats" (ca. 1928), Brass wire, painted wood base,
Honolulu Academy of Arts
* "Aztec Josephine Baker" (c. 1929), wire, 53" x 10" x 9". A representation of
Josephine Baker, the exuberant lead dancer from "La Révue Nègre" at the Folies Bergère.
* "Untitled" (1931), wire, wood and motor; one of the first kinetic mobiles.
* "Feathers" (1931), wire, wood and paint; first true mobile, although designed to stand on a desktop
* "Cone d'ebene" (1933), ebony, metal bar and wire; early suspended mobile (first was made in 1932).
* "Form Against Yellow" (1936), sheet metal, wire, plywood, string and paint; wall- supported mobile.
* "Object with Yellow Background" (1936), Painted wood, metal, string,
Honolulu Academy of Arts
Mercury Fountain" (1937), sheet metal and mercury
* "Devil Fish" (1937), sheet metal, bolts and paint; first piece made from a model.
* "1939 New York World's Fair" (maquette) (1938), sheet metal, wire, wood, string and paint
* "Necklace" (c. 1938), brass wire, glass and mirror
* "Sphere Pierced by Cylinders" (1939), wire and paint; the first of many floor standing, life size "stabiles" (predating
Anthony Caro's "plinthless" sculptures by two decades)
* "Lobster Trap and Fish Tail" (1939), sheet metal, wire and paint (suspended mobile); design for the stairwell of the
Museum of Modern Art, New York
* "Black Beast" (1940), sheet metal, bolts and paint; freestanding plinthless stabile)
* "S-Shaped Vine" (1946), sheet metal, wire and paint (suspended mobile)
* "Sword Plant" (1947) sheet metal, wire and paint (Standing Mobile)
* "Snow Flurry" (1948), sheet metal, wire and paint (suspended mobile)
* ".125" (1957), steel plate, rods and paint
* [http://www.unesco.org/artcollection/DetailAction.do?idOeuvre=1549 "La Spirale"] (1958), steel plate, rod and paint, 360" high; public monumental mobile for Maison de l'U.N.E.S.C.O., Paris
* "Teodelapio" (1962), steel plate and paint, monumental stabile,
* "Man" (1967) stainless steel plate, bolts and paint, 65' x 83' x 53', monumental stabile,
* "La Grande Vitesse" (1969), steel plate, bolts and paint, 43' x 55' x 25',
Grand Rapids, Michigan
* "Eagle" (1971), steel plate, bolts and paint, 38'9" x 32'8" x 32'8",
Olympic Sculpture Park, Seattle, Washington
* "White and Red Boomerang" (1971), Painted metal, wire,
Honolulu Academy of Arts
* "Stegosaurus" (1973), steel plate, bolts and paint, 50' tall,
Wadsworth Atheneum, Hartford, Connecticut
* "Cheval Rouge (Red Horse)" [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/
] (1974), red painted sheet metal, at the National Gallery,
* "Flamingo" (1974), red painted steel, at the Federal Plaza,
* "The Red Feather" (1975), black and red painted steel, 11' x 6'3" x 11'2",
The Kentucky Center
* "Untitled" (1976), aluminum honeycomb, tubing and paint, 358 1/2 x 912",
National Gallery of ArtWashington, D.C.
Mountains and Clouds" (1976), painted aluminum and steel, 612 inches x 900 inches, Hart Senate Office Building
List of Alexander Calder public works
* Calder, Alexander. "An Autobiography With Pictures". HarperCollins, ISBN 0-06-853268-7.
* Guerrero, Pedro E. "Calder at Home. The Joyous Environment of Alexander Calder". Stewart, Tabori & Chang, New York, 1998, ISBN 1556706553
* Prather, Marla. "Alexander Calder 1898 - 1976". National Gallery of Art, Washington D.C., 1998, ISBN 0894682288, ISBN 0300075189
* [http://www.calder.org Official Calder web site]
* [http://www.nga.gov/collection/calderinfo.shtm National Gallery of Art - Alexander Calder mobile]
* [http://www.guggenheimcollection.org/site/artist_bio_26.html Guggenheim collection Alexander Calder bio.]
* [http://www.memagazine.org/backissues/december98/features/calder/calder.html Mechanical Engineering Magazine - December 1998 Alexander Calder bio.]
* [http://www.cincinnatiartmuseum.org/absolutenm/templates/ArtTempCollection.aspx?articleid=124&zoneid=71 Calder mobile on view at the Cincinnati Art Museum]
* [http://www.surrealism-artlinks.com/Artist/Alexander-Calder/ Highly organized Alexander Calder directory]
* [http://www.berkshiremuseum.org/galleries/calder.html Alexander Calder toys at the Berkshire Museum in Pittsfield, MA]
* [http://www.aaa.si.edu/collectionsonline/caldalex/ Alexander Calder papers online at the Smithsonian Archives of American Art]
* [http://www.arteseleccion.com/ventanas/autor/autor.php?idioma=en&id=183&autor= Alexander Calder: Critical Analysis]
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