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Alexander Calder

American Sculptor

Alexander Calder Photo
Born: July 22, 1898
Lawnton, Pennsylvania
Died: November 11, 1976
New York, New York, USA
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The next step in sculpture is motion.
Alexander Calder Signature

Summary of Alexander Calder

American artist Alexander Calder redefined sculpture by introducing the element of movement, first through performances of his mechanical Calder's Circus and later with motorized works, and, finally, with hanging works called "mobiles." In addition to his abstract mobiles, Calder also created static sculptures, called "stabiles," as well as paintings, jewelry, theater sets, and costumes.

Key Ideas

Biography of Alexander Calder

Alexander Calder Photo

Alexander Calder, known as Sandy, was born into a long line of sculptors, being part of the fourth generation to take up the art form. Constructing objects from a very young age, his first known art tool was a pair of pliers. At eight, Calder was creating jewelry for his sister's dolls from beads and copper wire. Over the next few years, as his family moved to Pasadena, Philadelphia, New York, and San Francisco, he crafted small animal figures and game boards from scavenged wood and brass. Calder's interest initially led not to art, but to mechanical engineering and applied kinetics, which he studied at Stevens Institute of Technology in Hoboken, New Jersey (1915-1919).

Important Art by Alexander Calder

Calder's Circus (1926-1931)

Calder's Circus (1926-1931)

In this work Calder experimented with setting a large collection of miniature acrobats, animals, and other figures in motion using springs and pulleys. Calder's Circus exemplified the playful wit that infused much of Calder's subsequent work. Three films were made of Calder's Circus performances, but the work's significance is that it is one of the earliest modern works in which the artist is equally involved as both a "maker" and a performer.

Josephine Baker (III) (c. 1927)

Josephine Baker (III) (c. 1927)

Calder's illustrations for the National Police Gazette were often made of single, continuous lines. He learned this technique in mechanical drawing classes at the Art Students League. In 1925, Calder was the first to extend this line drawing approach into three dimensions. He soon began creating figurative and portrait sculptures using only wire to "draw in space." His several sculptures of dancer Josephine Baker were his earliest works in this direction. These artworks were important in furthering both his career-long use of wire and his interest in open-space sculpture.

A Universe (1934)

A Universe (1934)

In the early 1930s Calder's desire to create abstract paintings that moved through space led to motorized works such as A Universe, in which the two spherical shapes traveled at different rates during a 40-minute cycle. Interested in astronomy, he compared his works' discrete moving parts to the solar system. These works were an important step towards his non-motorized mobiles, as well as forerunners to his Constellation series of the 1940s.

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Content compiled and written by Rachel Gershman

Edited and published by The Art Story Contributors

"Alexander Calder Artist Overview and Analysis". [Internet]. . TheArtStory.org
Content compiled and written by Rachel Gershman
Edited and published by The Art Story Contributors
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First published on 01 Sep 2012. Updated and modified regularly
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