“The underlying sense of form in my work has been the system of the universe, or part thereof. For that is a rather huge model to work from” – Alexander Calder 1

Alexander Calder was born in Philadelphia in 1898. His father was a sculptor and his mother was a painter. As his father did public commissions, the Calder family traveled a lot around the country3. And while living in California Calder took a great interest in the stars and planets, which often appear in his later works.

After high school, Alexander enrolled in the Stevens Institute of Technology and graduated in 1919 with a degree in engineering. He worked several jobs after graduation, including hydraulics engineering and automotive engineering, but finding those unfulfilling, he began work as a common seaman. This renewed his interest in the stars and the cosmos. 3

In 1923, he settled in New York and enrolled at the Art Students Lounge. He then worked his way over to Paris and by the end of the 1920s he was producing wire animals. 3 Following work with the National Police Gazette, which had him doing sketches of the Barnum & Bailey Circus, Calder developed a strong interest in circuses. 3 Indeed, this may have contributed to his assemblage of the wire masterpiece the Cirque Calder, which could be manipulated manually by Calder. 3

January 1931, Calder married Lousia James, whom he met while on a steamer journey in 1929. Living for a while in France, they later purchased a house in Roxbury, Connecticut, where they had two daughters Sandra and Mary.3

In Autumn 1931, Alexander Calder initiated a truly new form of art by creating metal sculptures that ran on a system of cranks and motors. Marcel Duchamp gave these the title of mobiles. The central focus of Calder’s mobiles was the universe and cosmic imagery. Upon realizing he could make stationary objects, which relied on wind currents, he practically gave up mobiles. These stationary objects were known as stabiles.3

Alexander Calder passed away at age seventy-eight in 1976. 3

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1Fineberg, Jonathan. Art Since 1940: Strategies of Being. p. 43-51 Second ed. London:
Laurence King, 2000.

3Calder Foundation. Biography. 2009. Calder Foundation. 10 Feb. 2009

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