Alexander Calder
American artist



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Alexander Calder
American artist
Average: 5 (1 vote)

Date of Birth

July 22, 1898

Place of Birth

Lawnton, Pennsylvania, U.S.A.

Date of Death

November 11, 1976

Place of Death

New York City, New York, U.S.A.

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ajardini's picture

Sr. Editor

If you were really rich you might hang one of Alexander Calder's colorful mobiles above your heir's crib.

And they're equally enthralling to adults- Calder's definitely the most famous sculptor whose medium is simple wire and scrap metal. He imbues them with kinetic energy. There's something decidedly pleasing about watching the different pieces rotate around each other dreamily in the wind. Even soothing. But maybe I'm just stuck in the infancy stage...

Both his parents were artists, so it's no wonder "Sandy" (yes, that's actually his nickname) got the creative gene. He was indoctrinated at the young age of 4, when he posed nude for his father's sculpture The Man Cub, which now sits in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. Slightly weird to describe a 4 year old as "posing nude," but whatever.

We know the modeling incident didn't mess him up too badly because he wasn't your typical tortured artist.  His college yearbook describes him as, "...evidently always happy, or perhaps up to some joke, for his face is always wrapped up in that same mischievous, juvenile grin." (It's good to know I'm not alone in being juvenile.)

Calder started his career as a toymaker! He also put on charming "Circus" performances, where toy-sized wire wrapped clowns and lions gallivant around the stage, controlled by Calder the puppet master. Though he's less famous for these shows than his mobiles, you should remedy that by watching this video of one of Calder's "Circus" acts, because it's undeniably adorable.

His good-natured attitude also helped him make lots of famous friends, like Georgia O'Keeffe who he made jewelry for.  And it didn't hurt in building a bromance with Marcel Duchamp, who was actually the one to coin the term "mobiles," changing art history and nurseries forever.


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Here is what Wikipedia says about Alexander Calder

Alexander Calder (/ˈkɔːldər/; July 22, 1898 – November 11, 1976) was an American sculptor known both for his innovative mobiles (kinetic sculptures powered by motors or air currents) that embrace chance in their aesthetic, and static "stabiles" monumental public sculptures. He didn't limit his art to sculptures; he also created paintings, jewelry, theatre sets and costumes.

Calder preferred not to analyze his work, saying, "Theories may be all very well for the artist himself, but they shouldn't be broadcast to other people."

Born into a family of artists, Calder's work first gained attention in Paris in the 1920s and was soon championed by the Museum of Modern Art in New York, resulting in a retrospective exhibition in 1943. Major retrospectives were also held at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum (1964) and the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago (1974).

Calder's work is in many permanent collections, including the Whitney Museum of American Art, the Guggenheim Museum, the Museum of Modern Art, the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., and the Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris. He produced many large public works, including .125 (at JFK Airport, 1957), Pittsburgh (Carnegie International prize winner 1958, Pittsburgh International Airport) Spirale (UNESCO in Paris, 1958), Flamingo and Universe (both in Chicago, 1974), and Mountains and Clouds (Hart Senate Office Building, Washington, D.C., 1996).

Although primarily known for his sculpture, Calder also created paintings and prints, miniatures (such as his famous Cirque Calder), theater set design, jewelry design, tapestries and rugs, and political posters. He was honored by the US Postal Service with a set of five 32-cent stamps in 1998, and received the Presidential Medal of Freedom, posthumously in 1977, after refusing to receive it from Gerald Ford one year earlier in protest of the Vietnam War.

An important Calder work is the monumental "Floating Clouds" (1952–1953) of the Aula Magna (Central University of Venezuela) of the University City of Caracas in Venezuela. This work is a Unesco World Heritage Site. Calder's clouds were specially designed to combine art and technology, making the auditorium one of the top 5 university auditoriums in the world by sound quality.

Check out the full Wikipedia article about Alexander Calder.