Alexander Calder (1898 – 1976)

Calder was born into a family of artists, in Lawnton, Pennsylvania, August 22, 1898. In 1906 the family moved to Pasadena, amidst the flourishing Arts and Crafts Movement. It was here that Calder was given his first tools and a workshop where he made toys and jewellery for his sister’s dolls. He was considered to be the originator of mobile kinetic sculptures. Made with suspended shapes that move in response to touch or air currents, Calder’s sculptures were known as stabiles. His first performances were of his mechanical Calder’s Circus and later with motorized works, with hanging works, paintings, jewellery, theatre sets, and costumes.

Calder’s parents did not want him to have the struggles of an artist so In 1919, he completed his engineering degree from Stevens Institute of Technology, Hoboken, New Jersey. Calder moved to New York in early 1920’s and enrolled at the Art Students League. In his spare time he worked at the National Police Gazette, illustrating sporting events and circus attractions. This was the beginning of his fascination with the action of the circus, a theme that would often reappear in his later work.

Calder moved to Paris in 1926 and enrolled in the Académie de la Grande Chaumière. He established a studio at 22 rue Daguerre and became friends with a number of avant-garde artists, including Fernand Léger and Marcel Duchamp. During World War II, Calder attempted to join the Marines as a camofleur, but was rejected. In 1943 the Museum of Modern Art New York had dedicated a full-career survey of Calder, which was so popular that it was extended into 1944. Toward the late 1950s, Calder turned his attention to commissions, producing very recognizable works. In Italy, Calder created a stabile over 58 feet tall, (Teodelapio), for the 1962 Spoleto Festival. Another mobile hung in John F. Kennedy Airport in New York. Calder died in New York, unexpectedly on November 11, 1976.