Alexander Calder United States, 1898-1976


Born into a family of artists, Alexander Calder (b. 1898, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; d. 1976, New York, New York) was a leading twentieth-century artist known for his colorful, abstract work that balances innovative engineering with play. After completing his studies in mechanical engineering, Calder lived in Paris from 1926 to 1933, where he met modern artists Fernand Léger, Jean Arp, and Marcel Duchamp, before ultimately settling in Connecticut. Beginning in 1931, Calder’s lifelong interest in physics manifested when he began experimenting with his signature kinetic sculptures, which Duchamp named “mobiles,” a pun meaning both “motion” and “motive” in French. Equally innovative were Calder’s standing sculptures—or “stabiles” as Arp cleverly named them to distinguish them from the mobiles—which combined the solidity of a sculptural base with an attached moving element. In both cases, Calder sought to capitalize on the chance movements of air currents in the surrounding environment in order to create a playful, interactive work of art. Toward the latter part of his career, Calder also focused extensively on oil and gouache painting featuring vibrant colors and bold abstract forms. A prolific artist, Calder has been the subject of numerous international exhibitions and his work is held in the collections of major institutions including The Museum of Modern Art, New York; The Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.; Musée National d’Art Moderne, Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris and the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, Madrid. Having earned international acclaim, Calder’s public commissions may be seen in cities around the world.