(1898 - 1976)
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).
Download Full Biography