Lawnton 1898 – New York 1976
Alexander Calder was born in 1898, in Lawnton, Pennsylvania, in a family of artists. From 1915 to 1919, he studied engineering at the Stevens Institute of Technology in Hoboken, New Jersey.
In 1923, he attended the Art Students League in New York and also worked as a freelance artist for the National Police Gazette. For one of his assignments he spent two weeks sketching scenes from the Ringling Brother's and Barnum & Bailey Circus. This project marked the beginning of his fascination for circus.
In 1926, Alexander Calder moved to Paris where he studied at the Académie de la Grande Chaumière. In spring 1927, he realized a complete miniature circus with small figures of wire, wood and cloth and performed shows seen by many Parisian artists. At the same time, he met and became friends with a lot of avant-garde artists, including Joan Miró, Jean Arp and Marcel Duchamp. In 1930, after visiting Piet Mondrian’s studio, Calder gave up figurative sculpture to adopt an abstract sculptural language. In 1931, he joined the group Abstraction-Création with Piet Mondrian, Jean Arp, Robert Delaunay and Jean Hélion.
Using his engineering skills he developped his kinetic sculptures called « Mobiles » by Marcel Duchamp. Calder exhibited them for the first time at the Galerie Vignon in Paris in 1932. With these Mobiles he found his very own and most appropriate art form. His perfectly balanced constructions, made of metal elements, wires, threads and sticks, became more and more complex and abstract over the years. However, the impression that remains today is poetry and playful lightness. Besides sculptures, his work also comprises graphic art and gouaches. He also made jewels, scenographies and book illustrations.
Alexander Calder died in 1976.