Alexander Calder, 1898-1976
American sculptor, painter, and printmaker.
Alexander Calder was an American sculptor, painter and printmaker, best known for his wire sculptures and his invention of the mobile. Calder’s twisting wire creations introduced a new method of sculpting to the art world that ultimately changed the course of modern art.
Born into a family of artists in Lawton, Pennsylvania in 1898, Calder’s creativity, which was apparent even as a young child, was encouraged, although art as a profession was not. After a childhood spent moving between New York and California, Calder attended school in Hoboken, New Jersey where he studied mechanical engineering. After several years of working, however, Calder returned to school for his true calling—art. The influence of his time spent as an engineer, though, is apparent in Calder’s creations.
In 1926, after studying at the Art Students League in New York, Calder moved to Paris and began making toys. Drawing on both of his previous fields of study—engineering and art—Calder created a miniature circus, Cirque Calder, fashioned from wire, string, rubber, cloth, and other materials. This installation marks the artists’ interest in wire sculpture and kinetic art, a fascination that is echoed in his paintings and prints.
While in Paris, Calder also became friends with several avant garde artists, including Joan Miro, Jean Arp and Marcel Duchamp. The influence of these artists can be seen in much of Calder’s work, specifically in his use of color and amorphous forms. Perhaps most instrumental in Calder’s art, however, was Piet Mondrian, whose work “shocked” Calder into embracing abstract art.
Although he was most famous for his wire sculptures and mobile creations, Calder was also a prolific painter and printmaker. Calder’s bending and twisting wire sculptures often translate in his paintings to winding, abstract shapes. The undulation of Calder’s forms and the depth lent to these images through Calder’s use of saturated color convey a sense of movement and performance that recalls his famous mobiles.