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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)
Artwork Images

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)
Artwork Images

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 20th 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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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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