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Alexander Calder Photo

Alexander Calder

American Sculptor

Movements and Styles: Surrealism, Kinetic Art

Born: July 22, 1898 - Lawnton, Pennsylvania

Died: November 11, 1976 - New York, New York, USA

Alexander Calder Timeline

Important Art by Alexander Calder

The below artworks are the most important by Alexander Calder - that both overview the major creative periods, and highlight the greatest achievements by the artist.

Calder's Circus (1926-1931)
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Calder's Circus (1926-1931)

Artwork description & Analysis: 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.

Mixed media: wire, wood, metal, cloth, yarn, paper, cardboard, leather, string, rubber tubing, corks, buttons, rhinestones, pipe cleaners, bottle caps - Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, New York

Josephine Baker (III) (c. 1927)
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Josephine Baker (III) (c. 1927)

Artwork description & Analysis: 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.

Steel wire - Museum of Modern Art, New York, New York

A Universe (1934)
Artwork Images

A Universe (1934)

Artwork description & Analysis: 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.

Painted iron pipe, steel wire, motor, and wood with string - Museum of Modern Art, New York, New York

Arc of Petals (1941)
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Arc of Petals (1941)

Artwork description & Analysis: From the 1930s on, Calder created non-mechanized hanging, standing, and wall-mounted mobiles, whose movement was driven by random air currents. Early versions often used scavenged bits of glass or pottery, while later ones were generally comprised entirely of flat metal shapes painted solid red, yellow, blue, black, or white, such as this work. Calder succeeded in integrating natural movement into sculpture by assembling elements that balance themselves naturally by weight, surface area, and length of wire "arm." The basic equilibrium he struck guarantees compositional harmony among the parts, no matter their relative positions at any given moment. Though many other artists have since created works based on his principles, even now, decades later, Calder is still the undisputed master of this form of sculpture.

Painted and unpainted sheet aluminum, iron wire, and copper rivets - Peggy Guggenheim Collection, Venice, Italy

Devil Fish (1937)
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Devil Fish (1937)

Artwork description & Analysis: Counterpoint to his mobiles, Calder created many stabiles, composed of intersecting shaped planes of bolted sheet metal, often painted a single color. Devil Fish was the first larger-scale stabile Calder made. By forming combinations of curved biomorphic shapes, Calder creates a swirling sense of motion, even in a static sculpture such as this. Later stabiles combined both organic and geometric forms.

Sheet metal, bolts and paint - Calder Foundation, New York, New York

Man (1967)
Artwork Images

Man (1967)

Artwork description & Analysis: During his later years Calder produced many monumental stabiles and mobiles as public works for sites worldwide. Man was commissioned for Montreal's Expo '67. At 65 feet tall, its one of Calder's largest sculptures. Works such as Man contributed to the proliferation of public art during the second half of the twentieth century. Such grand stabiles are dynamic works, with their arches, points, and flowing forms reaching out in multiple directions.

Stainless steel plate and bolts - City of Montreal, Canada



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Alexander Calder Photo

Related Art and Artists

The Three Musicians (1921)
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The Three Musicians (1921)

Artist: Pablo Picasso

Artwork description & Analysis: Picasso painted two version of this picture. The slightly smaller version hangs in the Philadelphia Museum of Art, but both are unusually large for Picasso's Cubist period, and he may have chosen to work on this grand scale because they mark the conclusion of his Synthetic Cubism, which had occupied him for nearly a decade. He painted it in the same summer as the very different, classical painting Three Women at the Spring. Some have interpreted the pictures as nostalgic remembrances of the artist's early days: Picasso sits in the center - as ever the Harlequin - and his old friends Guillaume Apollinaire, who died in 1918, and Max Jacob, from whom he had become estranged, sit on either side. However, another argument links the pictures to Picasso's work for the Ballets Russes, and identifies the characters with more recent friends. Either way, the costumes of the figures certainly derive from traditions in Italian popular theatre.

Oil on canvas - Philadelphia Museum of Art

Composition with Large Red Plane, Yellow, Black, Gray, and Blue (1921)

Composition with Large Red Plane, Yellow, Black, Gray, and Blue (1921)

Artist: Piet Mondrian

Artwork description & Analysis: In the 1920s, Mondrian began to create the definitive abstract paintings for which he is best known. He limited his palette to white, black, gray, and the three primary colors, with the composition constructed from thick, black horizontal and vertical lines that delineated the outlines of the various rectangles of color or reserve. The simplification of the pictorial elements was essential for Mondrian's creation of a new abstract art, distinct from Cubism and Futurism. The assorted blocks of color and lines of differing width create rhythms that ebb and flow across the surface of the canvas, echoing the varied rhythm of modern life. The composition is asymmetrical, as in all of his mature paintings, with one large dominant block of color, here red, balanced by distribution of the smaller blocks of yellow, blue gray, and white around it. This style has been quoted by many artists and designers in all aspects of culture since the 1920s.

Oil on canvas - Gemeentemuseum, The Hague

Maternity (1924)
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Maternity (1924)

Artist: Joan Miró

Artwork description & Analysis: The composition of Maternity is very schematic: reduced to its simplest forms, the female figure is scarcely recognizable in this painting. With one breast in profile and the other frontally depicted, almost moon-like, she nurses two stick-figure children as they hover in mid-air. Miró's interest in abstraction and the bizarre is evident as he takes the traditional motif of Mother and Child and eliminates any element of realism. However, with the title, Maternity, Miró suggests that what remains after stripping away excess representation are the instinctual and emotional aspects of the relationship between mother and child that may not be evident in more naturalistic depictions.

Oil on canvas - National Gallery of Art, Scotland

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Content compiled and written by Rachel Gershman

Edited and published by The Art Story Contributors

" 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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