|This biography from the Archives of AskART:|
|One of America's best known sculptors, "Sandy" Calder became most
famous for his kinetic abstract mobiles. He also did floor
pieces, was a painter in watercolor, oil and gouache, did etchings and
serigraphs, and made jewelry and tapestries as well designed theater
stage settings and architectural interiors. |
His art reflects
his reputation of being a beloved, decent human being who continually
searched for fun and humor in that around him. He was highly
independent from luxuries and focused on creativity. His last
words, "I'll do it myself", tell the story of his life.
born in Philadelphia, the son of Alexander Sterling Calder and the
grandson of Alexander Milne Calder, well-known sculptors of public
monumental works. His mother, Nanette Lederer Calder, was a
professional portrait painter. Obviously he was nurtured in an
environment of art, and from an early age, he was making figures from
found objects. Because of the father's ill health and the
necessity for a drier climate, the family moved to Oracle, Arizona in
1905, and five years later to Pasadena, California. When Sandy
was a teenager, the family returned to Pennsylvania.
unable to make a decision about a vocation, but his fascination with
machines led to his earning a degree in mechanical engineering from the
Stevens Institute of Technology in 1919. He tried a variety of
jobs including working in the boiler room of a cruise ship. In
1923, he enrolled in the Art Students League in New York City, where
his teachers were John Sloan, Guy Pene Du Bois, and Boardman
Robinson. In classes there he did numerous oil paintings and also
humorous drawings of sporting events for the "National Police Gazette."
In 1925, he produced an illustrated book titled Animal Sketching,
one-line drawings that foreshadowed his early wire sculptures of
figures and animals. In 1926, encouraged by an engineer friend of
his father to follow his talent, he went to Paris where he lived the
next seven years and shortly after his arrival began doing wire
sculpture. During this period, his mother gave him seventy-five
dollars a month for living expenses.
He assembled a "Circus," of
miniature, hand activated one-wire figures with which he gave
performances in his studio. These pieces were made by bending and
twisting a single wire into humorous portraits, animals, and figure
He also met many of the leading avant-garde artists of
the day including Piet Mondrian, who influenced Calder's geometric,
non-objective constructions that he began producing in 1931. His
floor pieces, named "stabiles" by Jean Arp, were exhibited in a gallery
exhibition organized by Marcel Duchamp, who coined the word "mobile"
for the hanging, kinetic pieces. Soon, Calder was creating many of these wind-driven works.
mobiles were first shown in the United States in 1932, and the next
year he returned to America and purchased a home in Roxbury,
Connecticut where he lived the remainder of his life and gained much
attention from that time.
Dancer Martha Graham used several of
his sculptures in her modern dance performances, and personnel at the
Museum of Modern Art in New York began purchasing pieces from him
including his first large-scale piece called Whale in 1937.
World War II when metal was scarce, he made mobiles and stabiles from
carved, painted wood, and in the early 1950s he added to his repertoire
wall pieces and mobiles that incorporated sound. Many federal
agencies and businesses commissioned works by him, and most major
American museums have his pieces in their collections.
in 1976 occurred coincidentally with a major retrospective of his work
at the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York.
Matthew Baigell, Dictionary of American Art
|This biography from the Archives of AskART:|
|CALDER IN BLOOM |
A walk in the park with the great American sculptor.
by PETER SCHJELDAHL
interviewer once asked Alexander Calder if he ever felt sad. "When I
think I might start to," he replied, "I fall asleep." On another
occasion, he spoke of the "big advantage" he had because of his
inclination to be "happy by nature." Calder, who died in 1976 at the
age of seventy-eight, in fine productive fettle almost to the end, made
many such remarks, which are certain to daunt ordinary maladjusted
Perhaps vengefully, some people persist in regarding
him as trivial, which he isn't. His work is often great, sometimes
O.K., and once in a while fairly bad, but it always operates at a high
level of formal and philosophical intelligence. It also wears well.
plangent insouciance of Calder's best work looks ever stronger and, in a
real way, more serious than most other canonical styles of the twentieth
century. (And the flat champagne of his failures comes across as a test
to see if we're paying attention.)
Above all, Calder was an
extraordinarily successful maker of public art in an age when the terms
"public" and "art" began to consort with each other like cats in a
sack. It's not quite that we love his costume jewelry for the world's
plazas. Better, we take it in stride as self-explanatory and all but
inevitable. A Calder doesn't set off the questions that abort so much
public art in our democracy: What is that? What is it doing there? When
will it go away?
A rangy outdoor and indoor exhibition, "Grand
Intuitions: Calder's Monumental Sculpture," curated by Alexander S. C.
Rower, a grandson of the artist, has just opened at the Storm King Art
Center, in Mountainville, New York; it will remain for three years.
The New Yorker, June, 2001
|Biography from Hollis Taggart Galleries (Artists, A-D):|
|Credited with the invention of the mobile, Alexander Calder revolutionized twentieth-century art with his innovative use of subtle air currents to animate sculpture. An accomplished painter of gouaches and sculptor in a variety of media, Calder is best known for poetic arrangements of boldly colored, irregularly shaped geometric forms that convey a sense of harmony and balance. |
Calder was born in a suburb of Philadelphia to a family of artists. His grandfather, Alexander Milne Calder, and father, Alexander Stirling Calder, created sculptures and public monuments, and his mother was a painter. Accustomed to traveling in pursuit of public art commissions, the family moved to Pasadena, California, in 1906. The new environment—with its expansive night sky studded with brilliant planets and stars—fascinated the young Calder. These cosmic forms strongly influenced the structure and iconography of his future work.
At a young age, Calder began using tools and found materials to create various structures and inventions. This constructive impulse led him to attend the Stevens Institute of Technology, where he received a degree in mechanical engineering in 1919. Yet by 1922 he had abandoned his new career. After a stint as a seaman, Calder began formal art study at the Art Students League in New York in 1923. During this period, Calder worked as a freelance illustrator and often visited zoos and circuses to sketch.
Calder moved to Paris in 1926, and during his seven-year stay he delighted fellow artists including Man Ray, Joan Miró, Fernand Léger, Le Corbusier and Piet Mondrian and attracted the attention of art patrons with his whimsical wire figures and portrait heads. Most notably, he created small sculptures of circus animals and performers with movable parts and developed and toured a performance/demonstration dubbed the “Cirque Calder.” This series culminated in the completion of his most celebrated piece, Circus (1932, Whitney Museum of American Art).
Calder’s use of irregular, biomorphic forms that recall the work of Miró reflected the influence of Surrealism and Dada, but it was the art and concepts of Mondrian that would have the most decisive impact on Calder’s work. Calder visited Mondrian’s studio in 1930 and later described how the experience transformed his understanding of abstract art. He wrote, “This one visit gave me a shock that started things. Though I had often heard the word ‘modern’ before, I did not consciously know or feel the term ‘abstract.’ So now at thirty-two, I wanted to paint and work in the abstract.” (1) Shortly thereafter, Calder was invited to join the international Abstraction-Création group that included Mondrian, Theo van Doesburg, Robert and Sonia Delaunay, Jean Arp, and many other artists working with geometric abstract forms.
Calder was impressed by Mondrian’s reduction of visual imagery to a vocabulary of flat planes of primary colors. He suggested that Mondrian consider adding movement to the forms. Mondrian rejected the idea, stating “my painting is already very fast.” (2) Calder soon took his own advice and began experimenting with movement in his work. At first, he drew on his mechanical training to devise cranks and motors that would produce kinetic effects. The following year, Calder exhibited these new pieces, christened “mobiles” by Marcel Duchamp, as well as non-moving wire abstractions termed “stabiles” by Jean Arp. By 1932 Calder realized that ambient air currents were strong enough to move lightweight sculptures, and he abandoned prescribed patterns of movement for more spontaneous rhythms.
In 1933, Calder reestablished his home base in the United States, on a farm in Roxbury, Connecticut. The years from this point to the late 1950s were the most varied and prolific of Calder’s career. As he emerged as an artist of international stature, with a mid-career retrospective at the Museum of Modern Art in 1943, Calder continued to make mobiles (hanging and standing) and stabiles made out of sheet metal, as well as paintings, jewelry, and set designs for performances by Martha Graham, Eric Satie, and others. When scrap metal was in short supply during World War II, Calder turned to wood. In 1953, the Calder family purchased a home in Saché, France, and they began dividing their time between Connecticut, France and periods of extended travel. By the end of the 1950s, the proportions of Calder’s mobiles had dramatically increased and he was completing more site-specific commissions.
Large-scale sheet-metal stabiles commissioned for public spaces dominate Calder’s late career in the 1960s and 1970s. Their vivid colors, sweeping arches and shapes evoking birds and animals offer a counterpoint to rectilinear modern architecture and breathe life into urban environments around the world. One notable example is Flamingo (1973, Federal Center Plaza, Chicago). Widely celebrated during his lifetime, Calder died just a few weeks after the opening of “Calder’s Universe,” a retrospective at the Whitney Museum of American Art.
1. Alexander Calder, An Autobiography in Pictures (New York: Pantheon Books, 1966), p. 113.
Arnason, H. H. Calder. Princeton, NJ: Van Nostrand, 1966.
Calder, Alexander. An Autobiography in Pictures. New York: Pantheon Books, 1966.
Giménez, Carmen, and Alexander S. C. Rower, ed. Calder: Gravity and Grace. London: Phaidon Press, 2004.
Lipman, Jean. Calder's Universe. New York: Whitney Museum of American Art, 1976.
Marter, Joan M. Alexander Calder. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1991.
Prather, Marla. Alexander Calder 1898–1976. Washington D.C.: National Gallery of Art, 1998.
|Biography from Rogallery.com:|
|Alexander Calder, internationally famous by his mid-30s, is renowned for developing a new idiom in modern art-the mobile.|
works in this mode, from miniature to monumental, are called mobiles
(suspended moving sculptures), standing mobiles (anchored moving
sculptures) and stabiles (stationary constructions). Calder's
abstract works are characteristically direct, spare, buoyant, colorful
and finely crafted. He made ingenious, frequently witty, use of
natural and manmade materials, including wire, sheetmetal, wood and
Calder was born in 1898 in Philadelphia, the son of
Alexander Stirling Calder and grandson of Alexander Milne Calder, both
well-known sculptors. After obtaining his mechanical engineering
degree from the Stevens Institute of Technology, Calder worked at
various jobs before enrolling at the Art Students League in New York
City in 1923. During his student years, he did line drawings for the National Police Gazette.
In 1925, Calder published his first book, Animal Sketches,
illustrated in brush and ink. He produced oil paintings of city
scenes, in a loose and easy style. Early in 1926, he began to
carve primitivist figures in tropical woods, which remained an
important medium in his work until 1930.
In June 1936, Calder
moved to Paris. He took some classes at the Academie de la Grande
Chaumiere and made his first wire sculptures. Calder created a
miniature circus in his studio; the animals, clowns and tumblers were
made of wire and animated by hand. Many leading artists of the
period attended, and helped with, the performances.
first New York City exhibition was in 1928, and other exhibitions in
Paris and Berlin gained him international recognition as a significant
artist. A visit to Piet Mondrian's studio proved pivotal.
Calder began to work in an abstract style, finishing his first
nonobjective construction in 1931.
In early 1932, he exhibited
his first moving sculpture in an exhibition organized by Marcel
Duchamp, who coined the word "mobile." In May 1932, Calder's fame was
consolidated by the first United States show of his mobiles. Some were
motor-driven, His later wind-driven mobiles enabled the sculptural
parts to move independently, as Calder said, "by nature and
chance." Calder returned to the United States to live and work in
Roxbury, Massachusetts in June 1932.
From the 1940s on, Calder's
works, many of them large-scale outdoor sculptures, have been placed in
virtually every major city of the Western world. In the 1950s, he
created two new series of mobiles: "Towers," which included
wall-mounted wire constructions, and "Gongs," mobiles with sound.
was prolific and worked throughout his career in many art forms. He
produced drawings, oil paintings, watercolors, etchings, gouache and
serigraphy. He also designed jewelry, tapestry, theatre settings and
Calder died in 1976.
|Biography from Denis Bloch Fine Art:|
|Alexander Calder was born in Lawnton, Pennsylvania on July 22, 1898 to artist parents: his father was a sculptor and his mother a painter. From the age of 8 on his parents provided him with a workshop in which to create.|
For Christmas 1909, at the age of 11, he presented his parents with two of his first sculptures, a tiny dog and duck cut from a brass sheet. The duck was kinetic—it rocked back and forth when tapped.
While working as a fireman on a ship bound from New York to San Francisco, Calder awoke on deck to see both a brilliant sunrise and a sparkling full moon; each was visible on opposite horizons. The experience made a lasting impression on Calder: he would refer to it throughout his life.
Never interested in becoming an artist, Calder graduated from Stevens Institute of Technology in Hoboken, NJ with a practical degree in mechanical engineering in 1919.
In 1923 he moved to New York and enrolled at the Art Students League where he and his fellow students made a game of rapidly sketching people on the streets & subways. Calder became known for his ability to convey a sense of movement with a single unbroken line. He took a job illustrating and was sent to sketch the Barnum & Bailey Circus--the circus would become a lifelong interest for the artist.
Calder moved to Paris in 1926 and befriended prominent artists and intellectuals such as Joan Miro, Fernand Leger, Marcel Duchamp and Piet Mondrian.
In 1931 Calder created his first truly kinetic sculpture and gave form to an entirely new type of art. That year he married Louisa James, a niece of writer Henry James. Their first daughter, Sandra, was born in 1935 and a second daughter, Mary, followed in 1939.
In 1943 The Museum of Modern Art in New York gave a comprehensive exhibition of Calder’s work—the show’s exhibition catalogue was the first extensive study on the artist.
By the mid 1940s Alexander Calder was given exhibitions in Berne, Rio de Janeiro, Boston, Virginia and New York sealing his international status as an artist.
Calder won the first place prize for sculpture at the Venice Biennale in 1952. Numerous international public commissions followed including Braniff Airlines who asked the artist to paint a few of their jet planes as ’flying canvases’ in the 1970s.
Calder, who described his mobiles as ‘four dimensional drawings’ died in 1976 shortly after his retrospective at the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York City.
QUOTE: "I paint with shapes."
Select Museum Collections:
Art Institute of Chicago, IL
Detroit Institute of Arts, MI
Walker Art Center, MN
Guggenheim Museum, NY
Museum of Modern Art, NY
National Gallery, Washington, DC
Norton Simon Museum, CA
Kunstmuseum Basel, Switzerland
Museum of Contemporary Art, Barcelona
Tate Gallery, London
|Biography from Anderson Galleries:|
|Alexander Calder was born July 22, 1898, in Lawnton, Pennsylvania, into a family of artists. In 1919, he received an engineering degree from Stevens Institute of Technology, Hoboken. Calder attended the Art Students League, New York, from 1923 to 1926, studying briefly with Thomas Hart Benton and John Sloan, among others. |
As a freelance artist for the National Police Gazette in 1925, he spent two weeks sketching at the circus; his fascination with the subject dates from this time. He also made his first sculpture in 1925; the following year he made several constructions of animals and figures with wire and wood.
Calder’s first exhibition of paintings took place in 1926 at the Artist’s Gallery, New York. Later that year, he went to Paris and attended the Académie de la Grande Chaumière. In Paris, he met Stanley William Hayter, exhibited at the 1926 Salon des Indépendants, and in 1927 began giving performances of his miniature circus.
The first show of his wire animals and caricature portraits was held at the Weyhe Gallery, New York, in 1928. That same year, he met Joan Miro, who became his lifelong friend. Subsequently, Calder divided his time between France and the United States.
In 1929, the Galerie Billiet gave him his first solo show in Paris. He met Frederick Kiesler, Fernand Léger, and Theo van Doesburg and visited Piet Mondrian’s studio in 1930. Calder began to experiment with abstract sculpture at this time and in 1931 and 1932 introduced moving parts into his work. These moving sculptures were called “mobiles”; the stationary constructions were to be named “stabiles.” He exhibited with the Abstraction-Création group in Paris in 1933. In 1943, the Museum of Modern Art, New York, gave him a solo exhibition.
During the 1950s, Calder traveled widely and executed Towers (wall mobiles) and Gongs (sound mobiles). He won the Grand Prize for Sculpture at the 1952 Venice Biennale. Late in the decade, the artist worked extensively with gouache; from this period, he executed numerous major public commissions. In 1964–65, the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, presented a Calder retrospective. He began the Totems in 1966 and the Animobiles in 1971; both are variations on the standing mobile. A Calder exhibition was held at the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, in 1976.
Calder died November 11, 1976, in New York.
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