Alexander CALDER

Alexander Calder was born in 22 July 1898 to a family of artists in Lawnton, Pennsylvania. Despite his father being a sculptor and his mother a painter, he was encouraged to study mechanical engineering and went on to hold several jobs in the field whilst living in New York. Between 1923 and 1925, he attended the Art Students League, New York, and made his first wire sculpture. As a freelance artist for the National Police Gazette, he spent two weeks sketching the circus in 1925; the beginnings of his interest in the subject.


In 1926, Calder moved to Paris where he established a studio 22 rue Daguerre in Montparnasse. Calder would exhibit at the Salon des Indépendants that year, and attended the Académie de la Grand Chaumière. Soon after, he drew the attention of the avant-garde with his Cirque Calder, befriending Marcel Duchamp, Joan Miró, Jean Arp and Fernand Léger. In 1929, he had his first solo show in Paris at Galerie Billet. Calder created his first kinetic sculptures in 1931, the earliest of these were dubbed mobiles by Duchamp for their mechanical motorisation. Calder quickly abandoned the mechanical aspects, however, developing suspended sculptures that would move with the air’s currents. Concurrently, Calder began making free-standing static sculptures – also made from sheet metal, nuts, bolts, and wire – which were dubbed stabiles by Arp.


In 1933, Calder exhibited with the Abstraction-Création group in Paris before returning to the United States with his wife Louisa, moving into a farmhouse in Roxbury, Connecticut. There, Calder began to explore the possibilities of outdoor sculptures as well as monumental works, and was the subject of a major retrospective at the Museum of Modern Art, New York, in 1943. In 1952, Calder won the Grand Prize for Sculpture at the XXVI Venice Biennale, and the following year he moved back to France with Louisa. During the 1950s, Calder travelled widely and executed towers (wall mobiles, developed 1940s) and gongs (sound mobiles, developed c. 1951), also working extensively with gouache. He was also occupied with large-scale commissions during the latter end of his career, including Spirale (1958) for the UNESCO headquarters in Paris. In 1964-65, the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, held a Calder retrospective. Calder died on 11 November 1976, in New York.


Calder’s work can be found in the following selected international collections: the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), New York; Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York; the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; the National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.; The Broad, Los Angeles; the Peggy Guggenheim Collection, Venice; Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia, Madrid; Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam; Musée National d'Art Moderne, Centre Pompidou, Paris; Tate Collection, London.


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