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Alexander Calder

American, 1898-1976

Biography

Alexander Calder

  • (1898-1976)

    Born in 1898, Lawnton, Pennsylvania, US

    For a comprehensive chronology, see www.calder.org

    22 July or August 1898
    Calder is born in Lawnton, Pennsylvania, to Nanette Lederer Calder, a painter, and Alexander Stirling Calder, a sculptor. I always thought I was born—at least my mother always told me so—on August 22, 1898. But my grandfather Milne’s birthday was on August 23, so there might have been a little confusion. In 1942, when I wrote the Philadelphia City Hall for a birth certificate, I sent them a dollar and they told me I was born on the twenty-second of July, 1898. So I sent them another dollar and told them, “Look again.” They corroborated the first statement.

    December 1909
    For Christmas, Calder presents his parents with a dog and a duck that he trimmed from a brass sheet and bent into formation. The duck is kinetic, rocking back and forth when tapped.

    October–December 1923
    Calder begins classes at the Art Students League of New York, studying life and pictorial composition with John Sloan and portrait painting with George Luks. He studies at the League through December 1925.

    Winter 1925
    Calder makes hundreds of brush drawings of animals at the Bronx Zoo and the Central Park Zoo. The following year, Animal Sketching, a drawing manual written by Calder with reproductions of 141 of his brush drawings, is published by Bridgman Publishers in New York.

    Fall 1926
    Calder begins creating Cirque Calder, a complex and unique body of art. Fashioned from wire, fabric, leather, rubber, cork, and other materials, Cirque Calder is designed to be performed for an audience by Calder. It develops into a multi-act articulated series of mechanized sculpture in miniature scale, a distillation of the natural circus. Calder is able to travel with his easily transportable circus and hold performances on both continents. Over the next five years, Calder continues to develop and expand this work of performance art to fill five large suitcases.

    Fall 1926
    Calder makes his first formal wire sculptures, Josephine Baker I and Struttin’ His Stuff.

    October 1930
    Accompanied by another American artist, William “Binks” Einstein, Calder visits Mondrian’s studio at 26 rue du Départ. Already familiar with Mondrian’s geometric abstractions, Calder is deeply impressed by the studio environment. It was a very exciting room. Light came in from the left and from the right, and on the solid wall between the windows there were experimental stunts with colored rectangles of cardboard tacked on. Even the victrola, which had been some muddy color, was painted red. I suggested to Mondrian that perhaps it would be fun to make these rectangles oscillate. And he, with a very serious countenance, said: “No, it is not necessary, my painting is already very fast.” This one visit gave me a shock that started things. Though I had heard the word “modern” before, I did not consciously know or feel the term “abstract.” So now, at thirty-two, I wanted to paint and work in the abstract. And for two weeks or so, I painted very modest abstractions. At the end of this, I reverted to plastic work which was still abstract.

    27 April–9 May 1931
    Calder’s abstract work is presented for the first time in the exhibition “Alexandre Calder: Volumes–Vecteurs–Densités/Dessins–Portraits,” at Galerie Percier, Paris. 

    Fall 1931
    Marcel Duchamp visits the studio at 14 rue de la Colonie again and sees Calder’s latest works. There was one motor-driven thing, with three elements. The thing had just been painted and was not quite dry yet. Marcel said, “Do you mind?” When he put his hands on it, the object seemed to please him, so he arranged for me to show in Marie Cuttoli’s Galerie Vignon, close to the Madeleine. I asked him what sort of a name I could give these things and he at once produced “Mobile.” In addition to something that moves, in French it also means motive. Duchamp also suggested that on my invitation card I make a drawing of the motor-driven object and print: CALDER/SES MOBILES.

    After 12 February 1932
    In response to Duchamp’s term “mobile,” Arp asks sarcastically, Well, what were those things you did last year [for Percier’s]—stabiles? Calder adopts “stabile” to refer to his static works.

    August 1933
    The Calders visit a real-estate agency in Danbury, Connecticut. After viewing several properties, they discover a dilapidated eighteenth-century farmhouse in Roxbury, Connecticut; both Louisa and Calder claim to have been the first to exclaim, “That’s it!”

    23 February–13 March 1937
    Calder’s first large-scale bolted stabiles, Devil Fish and Big Bird, are on view in “Calder: Stabiles & Mobiles” at the Pierre Matisse Gallery, New York.

    May 1937
    Calder and Miró visit the Spanish pavilion under construction at the 1937 World’s Fair site in Paris. Calder meets the pavilion’s architects, Josép Lluís Sert and Luis Lacasa. Sert eventually commissions Calder to make Mercury Fountain for the Spanish pavilion. Mined in Almadén in Spain, the mercury symbolizes Republican resistance to fascism.

    3–25 December 1940
    “Calder Jewelry” is presented at Willard Gallery, New York. In her press release for the show, Willard writes, These works of art are savage and deliberate and self-confidently sophisticated . . . This is a master modern artist’s contribution to the history of fashion. For a world already in chains it is superb stuff.

    29 September 1943–16 January 1944
    The Museum of Modern Art, New York, presents “Alexander Calder: Sculptures and Constructions,” curated by Sweeney and Duchamp. Calder writes, Simplicity of equipment and an adventurous spirit in attacking the unfamiliar or unknown are apt to result in a primitive and vigorous art. Somehow the primitive is usually much stronger than art in which technique and flourish abound. Originally scheduled to close on 28 November 1943, the exhibition is extended to 16 January 1944 due to public demand.

    Before 3 July 1945
    Calder produces a series of small-scale works, many from scraps trimmed during the making of other objects. Let’s mail these little objects to [Louis] Carré, in Paris, and have a show, Duchamp suggests when he sees them; by taking advantage of the newly available international airmail system, Duchamp’s action predates “mail art” by nearly two decades. Carré responds to Duchamp’s proposal. Interested show Calder miniatures would also gladly exhibit mobile sculptures available all sizes and colours.

    14–19 June 1952
    Calder represents the United States in the XXVI Biennale di Venezia. Sweeney installs the exhibition and writes a short text for the exhibition catalogue. Calder wins the Grand Prize for sculpture.

    28 June 1952
    Calder accepts the commission from Carlos Raúl Villanueva, whom he met through Sert in 1951, to design an acoustic ceiling for Aula Magna, the auditorium of the Universidad Central de Venezuela. He collaborates with the engineering firm Bolt, Beranek, and Newman, Cambridge, Massachusetts.

    11 November 1953
    The Calders visit Jean to see his renovated mill house in Saché. Calder agrees to a trade of three mobiles for François Premier, a dilapidated seventeenth-century stone house built adjoining a cliff on Jean’s property.

    15 March 1957
    The Committee of Art Advisors at UNESCO approves Calder’s maquette for a standing mobile. Titled Spirale, the mobile top is made by Calder at Segré’s Iron Works in Connecticut and the stabile bottom is made with the collaboration of Jean Prouvé in France.

    27 March 1962
    In a letter to Giovanni Carandente, Calder agrees to a proposal to make a sculpture for the Spoleto Festival in Italy. He decides to make “a stabile, which will stand on the ground, + arch the roadway.” His work results in Teodelapio, a monumental stabile, which is completed in August 1962.

    6 November 1964–31 January 1965
    Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, exhibits “Alexander Calder: A Retrospective Exhibition.” Thomas M. Messer curates the exhibition, which travels to St. Louis, Toronto, Milwaukee, and Des Moines.

    14 June 1969
    Calder attends the dedication ceremony for La Grande vitesse, a monumental stabile commissioned by the city of Grand Rapids, Michigan, in August 1967. This is the first sculpture to be funded by the public art program of the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA).

    14 October 1976–6 February 1977
    The Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, with Jean Lipman as curator, exhibits “Calder’s Universe,” a major retrospective. The exhibition travels to fifteen cities throughout the United States and Japan.

    11 November 1976
    Calder dies in New York City at the home of his daughter Mary.

Selected Solo Exhibitions

  • For a comprehensive list of exhibitions and publications, see www.calder.org

    2021
    Alexander Calder: Modern from the Start, The Museum of Modern Art, New York, US

    2018
    Alexander Calder: Theater of Encounters, Fundación Proa, Buenos Aires, Argentina
    Alexander Calder: Radical Inventor, Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, Quebec, Canada

    2017
    Calder: Hypermobility, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, US
    Calder: Forgeron des géantes libellules, Musée Soulages, Rodez, France

    2015
    Calder: Discipline of the Dance, Museo Jumex, Mexico City, Mexico
    Alexander Calder: Retrospective, Pushkin Museum, Moscow, Russia
    Alexander Calder: Performing Sculpture, Tate Modern, London, UK

    2014
    Alexander Calder at the Rijksmuseum, Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam, The Netherlands
    Calder: Jewelry, Kukje Gallery, Seoul, Korea

    2013
    Calder, Leeum, Samsung Museum of Art, Seoul, Korea
    Alexander Calder: Avant-Garde in Motion, Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen, Düsseldorf, Germany
    Calder and Abstraction: From Avant-Garde to Iconic, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, California, US

    2012
    Alexander Calder: De grote ontdekking, Gemeentemuseum, The Hague, The Netherlands
    Calder Noir, Kukje Gallery, Seoul, Korea

    2011
    Calder's Portraits: A New Language, National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C., US

    2009
    Alexander Calder: A Balancing Act, Seattle Art Museum, Washington, US
    Calder: Sculptor of Air, Palazzo delle Esposizioni, Rome, Italy

    2008
    Calder Jewelry, Norton Museum of Art, West Palm Beach, Florida, US
    Alexandre Calder en Touraine, Château de Tours, France
    Alexander Calder: The Paris Years, 1926–1933, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, US

    2006
    Calder no Brasil, Pinacoteca do Estato de São Paulo, Brazil

    2005
    The Surreal Calder, Menil Collection, Houston, US

    2004
    Calder: Poetry in Motion, Kukje Gallery, Seoul, Korea

    2003
    Calder: Gravedad y la Gracia, Fundación del Museo Guggenheim Bilbao, Spain

    2001
    Grand Intuitions: Calder’s Monumental Sculpture, Storm King Art Center, Mountainville, New York, US

    2000
    Calder in Connecticut, Wadsworth Atheneum, Hartford, Connecticut, US
    Alexander Calder: Motion and Color, Iwaki City Art Museum, Japan

    1998
    Alexander Calder: 1898–1976, National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., US

    1997
    Flying Colors: The Innovation and Artistry of Alexander Calder, San Jose Museum of Art, California, US
    Calder, Fundacío Joan Miró, Barcelona, Spain

    1995
    Alexander Calder: Retrospective, Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, Humlebaek, Denmark

    1993
    Calder: Mobiles, stabiles, gouaches, bijoux . . ., Musée Picasso, Château Grimaldi, Antibes, France

    1991
    Celebrating Calder, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, US

    1989
    Calder Intime, Musée des Arts Décoratifs, Paris, France

    1986
    Alexander Calder: An American Invention, Sheldon Memorial Art Gallery, University of Nebraska, Lincoln, US

    1983
    Calder: Mostra retrospettiva, Palazzo a Vela, Turin, Italy

    1976
    Calder's Universe, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, US

    1975
    Calder, Haus der Kunst, Munich, Germany

    1974
    Alexander Calder: A Retrospective Exhibition, Work from 1925–1974, Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, Illinois, US

    1973
    Alexander Calder: Retrospektive, Galerie Maeght, Zurich, Switzerland

    1972
    Calder's Circus, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, US

    1970
    A Salute to Alexander Calder, The Museum of Modern Art, New York, US

    1969
    Calder, Fondation Maeght, Saint-Paul-de-Vence, France

    1967
    Calder: 19 Gifts from the Artist, The Museum of Modern Art, New York, US

    1964
    Alexander Calder: A Retrospective Exhibition, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, US

    1962
    Alexander Calder: Sculpture–Mobiles, Arts Council of Great Britain, Tate Gallery, London, UK

    1959
    Alexander Calder, Stabilen, Mobilen, Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam, The Netherlands

    1957
    Alexander Calder, Kunsthalle Basel, Basel, Switzerland

    1956
    Calder, Perls Galleries, New York, US

    1955
    Exposiciòn Calder, Museo de Bellas Artes, Caracas, Venezuela

    1953
    Alexander Calder Mobiles, Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, US
    II Bienal do Museu de Arte Moderna de São Paulo, Museu de Arte Moderna, São Paulo, Brazil

    1952
    Alexander Calder: Gongs and Towers, Curt Valentin Gallery, New York, US

    1950
    Calder: Mobiles & Stabiles, Galerie Maeght, Paris, France
    Calder, New Gallery, Charles Hayden Memorial Library, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, US

    1948
    Alexander Calder, Ministerio da Educaçao e Saude, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

    1946
    Alexander Calder: Mobiles, Stabiles, Constellations, Galerie Louis Carré, Paris, France

    1944
    Recent Work by Alexander Calder, Buchholz Gallery/Curt Valentin, New York, US

    1943
    17 Mobiles by Alexander Calder, Addison Gallery of American Art, Andover, Massachusetts, US
    Alexander Calder: Sculptures and Constructions, The Museum of Modern Art, New York, US

    1941
    Mobiles by Alexander Calder, Stabiles and Jewelry, San Francisco Museum of Art, California, US

    1940
    Calder Jewelry, Willard Gallery, New York, US

    1938
    Calder Mobiles, George Walter Vincent Smith Gallery, Springfield, Massachusetts, US

    1937
    Calder: Mobiles and Stabiles, The Mayor Gallery, London, UK

    1935
    Mobiles by Alexander Calder, The Renaissance Society at The University of Chicago, Illinois, US

    1934
    Mobiles by Alexander Calder, Pierre Matisse Gallery, New York, US

    1932
    Calder: ses mobiles, Galerie Vignon, Paris, France
    Calder: Mobiles/Abstract Sculptures, Julien Levy Gallery, New York, US

    1931
    Alexandre Calder: Volumes–Vecteurs–Densités/Dessins–Portraits, Galerie Percier, Paris, France

    1929
    Sculptures bois et fil de fer de Alexander Calder, Galerie Billiet-Pierre Vorms, Paris, France
    Alexander Calder: Skulpturen aus Holz und aus Draht, Galerie Neumann-Nierendorf, Berlin, Germany
    Alexander Calder: Paintings, Wood Sculpture, Toys, Wire Sculpture, Jewelry, Textiles, Fifty-Sixth Street Galleries, New York, US

    1928
    Wire Sculpture by Alexander Calder, Weyhe Gallery, New York, US

    1927
    The Galleries of Jacques Seligmann and Company, Paris, France
     

Selected Group Exhibitions

  • 2019
    Calder-Picasso, Musée national Picasso-Paris, Paris, France

    2016
    Alexander Calder & Fischli/Weiss, Fondation Beyeler, Riehen/Basel, Switzerland
    Calder and Brazilian Art, Itaú Cultural, São Paulo, Brazil

    2015
    Calder Lightness; Richard Tuttle Wire Pieces; Fred Sandback 64 Three–Part Pieces, Pulitzer Arts Foundation, St. Louis, Missouri, US
    Marvelous Objects: Surrealist Sculpture from Paris to New York, Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Smithsonian Institution, Washington D.C, US

    2013
    Le Surréalisme et l'objet, Musée National d'Art Moderne, Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris, France

    2007
    Kukje Gallery: 25 Years, Kukje Gallery, Seoul, Korea

    2004
    Calder–Miró, Fondation Beyeler, Riehen/Basel, Switzerland

    1993
    Picasso and the Age of Iron, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, US

    1968
    The Machine as Seen at the End of the Mechanical Age, The Museum of Modern Art, New York, US

    1953
    Alexander Calder: Mobiles/Naum Gabo: Kinetic Constructions and Constructions in Space, Wadsworth Atheneum, Hartford, US

    1952
    XXVI Biennale di Venezia, Venice, Italy

    1949
    Third International Exhibition of Sculpture, Philadelphia Museum of Art in collaboration with Fairmount Park Art Association, Philadelphia, US

    1947
    Alexander Calder/Fernand Léger, Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam, The Netherlands

    1942
    First Papers of Surrealism, Coordinating Council of French Relief Societies, Whitelaw Reid Mansion, New York, US

    1936
    Cubism and Abstract Art, The Museum of Modern Art, New York, US
    Fantastic Art, Dada, Surrealism, The Museum of Modern Art, New York, US
     

Selected Awards

  • 1977       
    Presidential Medal of Freedom
    The Goslar Kaiserring Award for Modern Art

    1975
    Honorary Fellow, Royal Academy of Fine Arts, The Hague
    United Nations Peace Medal

    1974
    Commandeur de la Légion d'honneur
    Citoyen d’Honneur, City of Saché
    Official Mayoral Decree of “Alexander Calder Day in Chicago” for 25 October; Honorary Citizen of Chicago
    Le Grand Prix National des Arts

    1971
    Gold Medal for Sculpture, American Academy of Arts and Letters and the National Institute of Arts and Letters

    1970
    University of California, Honorary Doctorate
    University of Glasgow, Honorary Degree, Doctor of Laws

    1969
    Stevens Institute of Technology, Honorary Degree, Doctor of Engineering
    Key to the City of Grand Rapids, Michigan

    1966
    Harvard University, Honorary Degree, Doctor of Arts

    1964
    Elected to American Academy of Arts and Letters

    1963
    President’s Medal, The Art Directors Club of New York

    1962
    Art in America Annual Award for an Outstanding Contribution to American Art
    Creative Arts Awards, Sculpture Medal, Brandeis University

    1968
    Officier de la Légion d’honneur

    1961
    Fine Arts Gold Medal for Master of Sculpture, The American Institute of Architects

    1960
    Elected to National Institute of Arts and Letters
    Gold Medal of Honor in Sculpture, Architectural League of New York

    1952
    Grand Prize for Sculpture, XXVI Biennale di Venezia

Selected Public and Private Collections

  • Art Institute of Chicago
    University of California, Berkeley Art Museum & Pacific Film Archive
    Centre Pompidou, Musée national d'art moderne, Paris
    Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C.
    Moderna Museet, Stockholm
    Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago
    The Museum of Modern Art, New York
    National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.
    Peggy Guggenheim Collection, Venice
    Philadelphia Museum of Art
    Leeum, Samsung Museum of Art, Seoul
    San Francisco Museum of Modern Art
    Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington, D.C.
    Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York
    Whitney Museum of American Art, New York
    Yale University Art Gallery, New Haven
     

Selected Monographs

  • Sweeney, James Johnson. Alexander Calder. New York: Museum of Modern Art, 1951.
    Calder, Alexander, and Jean Davidson, ed. Calder: An Autobiography with Pictures. New York: Pantheon Books, 1966. 
    Arnason, H. Harvard, and Pedro E. Guerrero. Calder. New York: D. Van Nostrand, 1966.
    Calder, Alexander, James Johnson Sweeney, and Daniel Lelong. Calder, l'artiste et l'oeuvre. Archives Maeght, no. 1. Paris: Maeght Editeur, 1971.
    Arnason, H. Harvard, and Ugo Mulas. Calder. New York: Viking Press, 1971.
    Bruzeau, Maurice. Calder à Saché. Paris: Éditions Cercle d'Art, 1975. 
    Hayes, Margaret Calder. Three Alexander Calders, A Family Memoir. Middlebury, Vt.: Paul S. Eriksson, 1977.
    Pierre, Arnauld. Calder: La sculpture en mouvement. Paris: Découvertes Gallimard/Paris-Musées, 1996.
    Carandente, Giovanni. Teodelapio: Alexander Calder. Milan: Edizioni Charta, 1996.
    Rower, Alexander S. C. Calder Sculpture. New York: Universe, 1998.
    Guerrero, Pedro E. Calder at Home: The Joyous Environment of Alexander Calder. New York: Stewart, Tabori & Chang, 1998.
    Stern, H. Peter, David R. Collens, and Alexander S. C. Rower. Calder: Storm King Art Center. Mountainville, N.Y.: Storm King Art Center, 2003.
    Calder Jewelry. Edited by Alexander S. C. Rower and Holton Rower. New York: Calder Foundation, 2007.
    Mulas, Ugo, Alexander Calder, and Giulio C. Argan. Ugo Mulas/Alexander Calder. Milan: Officina Libraria, 2008.
    Pierre, Arnauld. Calder: Mouvement et Réalité. Paris: Éditions Hazan, 2009.
    Calder by Matter. Edited by Alexander S. C. Rower. Paris: Cahiers d'Art, 2013.
    “Calder in France.” Cahiers d’Art, no. 1 (2015). Edited by Alexander S. C. Rower.
    Perl, Jed. Calder: The Conquest of Time: The Early Years: 1898–1940. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2017.
     

Works

Publications

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POETRY IN MOTION
POETRY IN MOTION

Selected Press

2021-07-06 The Atlanta Journal Constitution
2021-07-05 The Magazine Antiques
2021-04-00 The Brooklyn Rail
2021-02-18 The Atlanta Journal Constitution
2020-06-22 The New York Times
2015-10-00 TATE ETC.
2015-01-00 PUBLIC ART
2014-11-00 PUBLIC ART
2014-09-00 미술시대
2014-08-00 PRIVILEGE
2014-08-00 AVENUEL
2013-08-00 HEREN
See the Modernist Masterpieces That Have Returned to View at the Neue Nationalgalerie in Berlin After a Six-Year Hiatus for Renovation   pdf Artnet news
Calder and Picasso rarely spoke, but their art converses at the High   pdf The Atlanta Journal Constitution
Current and coming: High Time for Picasso and Calder   pdf The Magazine Antiques
Alexander Calder: Modern from the Start   pdf The Brooklyn Rail
Alexander Calder, MoMA's Household God, Still Holds Sway   pdf The New York Times
Calder and Picasso: 100 works from two giants coming to High Museum   pdf The Atlanta Journal Constitution
From Celine, a Pendant Designed by a Sculptor   pdf The New York Times
The Calder Mobiles that Asked to be Touched   pdf Art & Object
[정윤아의 ‘컬렉터의 마음을 훔친 세기의 작품들’] 칼더 | 바람 따라 춤추네…모빌 조각의 아버지   pdf 매경Economy
The Man Who Made Modern Art Move   pdf TATE ETC.
Cover Artist 100: Alexander Calder   pdf PUBLIC ART
Alexander Calder   pdf PUBLIC ART
알렉산더 칼더전   pdf 미술시대
ALEXANDER CALDER'S WEARABLE ART   pdf PRIVILEGE
Contemporary Art   pdf AVENUEL
[아트 갤러리] 알렉산더 칼더 '목걸이'   pdf 서울경제
[국제갤러리 ‘움직이는 작업’ 전시] 알렉산더 칼더 보석전   pdf 국민일보
착용 가능한 예술… ‘알렉산더 칼더’의 주얼리展   pdf 헤럴드경제
[박현주의 아트톡]'움직이는 조각 모빌' 칼더의 목걸이 브로치는 누가 살까?   pdf 아주경제
The Great Calder   pdf HEREN