Alexander Calder (1898 – 1976)
Alexander Calder was born in 1898. His father was the sculptor Alexander Stirling Calder and his mother a painter. Calder was encouraged to create, and from the age of eight he always had his own workshop wherever the family lived. For Christmas in 1909, Calder presented his parents with two of his first sculptures.
In 1923 he moved to New York and enrolled at the Art Students League. He also took a job illustrating for the National Police Gazette, which sent him to the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus to sketch circus scenes. The circus became a lifelong interest, and after moving to Paris in 1926, he created his Cirque Calder, a complex and unique assemblage of diminutive performers, animals, and props fashioned from wire, leather, cloth, and other found materials,.
Calder found he enjoyed working with wire for his circus. He soon began to sculpt from this material many portraits of his friends and public figures of the day. In 1928 Calder was given his first solo gallery show at the Weyhe Gallery in New York. This exhibition was soon followed by others in New York, Paris, and Berlin. He became friendly with many prominent artists and intellectuals of the early twentieth century at this time, including Joan Miró, Fernand Léger, James Johnson Sweeney, and Marcel Duchamp. In October of 1930, Calder visited the studio of Piet Mondrian in Paris and was deeply impressed by a wall of colored paper rectangles that Mondrian continually repositioned for compositional experiments. He recalled later in life that this experience "shocked" him toward total abstraction.
In the fall of 1931, Calder created his first truly kinetic sculpture - mobiles that would undulate on their own with the air’s currents and thus gave form to an entirely new type of art.
The forties and fifties were a remarkably productive period for Calder, during which he created many works, from mobiles to table-top stabiles, wire sculptures, drawings, and prints. In 1949, Calder constructed his largest mobile to date, International Mobile, for the Philadelphia Museum of Art. In his later years , Calder concentrated his efforts primarily on large-scale commissioned works.
In 1976, Calder attended the opening of yet another retrospective of his work, Calder’s Universe, at the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York. Just a few weeks later, he died at the age of seventy-eight, ending the most prolific and innovative artistic career of the twentieth century.