Alexander Calder

Photo: Herbert Matter © 2021 Calder Foundation, New York / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

Alexander Calder was born in 1898, the second child of artist parents—his father was a sculptor and his mother a painter. In his mid-twenties, Calder moved to New York City, where he studied at the Art Students League and worked at the ‘National Police Gazette,’ illustrating sporting events and the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus. Shortly after his move to Paris in 1926, Calder created his ‘Cirque Calder’ (1926–31), a complex and unique body of art. It wasn’t long before his performances of the ‘Cirque’ captured the attention of the Parisian avant-garde.

In 1931, a significant turning point in Calder’s artistic career occurred when he created his first kinetic nonobjective sculpture and gave form to an entirely new type of art. Some of the earliest of these objects moved by motors and were dubbed ‘mobiles’ by Marcel Duchamp—in French, mobile refers to both ‘motion’ and ‘motive.’ Calder soon abandoned the mechanical aspects of these works and developed suspended mobiles that would undulate on their own with the air’s currents. In response to Duchamp, Jean Arp named Calder’s stationary objects ‘stabiles’ as a means of differentiating them.

Calder returned to live in the United States with his wife, Louisa, in 1933, purchasing a dilapidated farmhouse in the rural town of Roxbury, Connecticut. It was there that he made his first sculptures for the outdoors, installing large-scale standing mobiles among the rolling hills of his property. In 1943, James Johnson Sweeney and Duchamp organized a major retrospective exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art, New York, which catapulted Calder to the forefront of the New York art world and cemented his status as one of the premier American contemporary artists.

In 1953, Calder and Louisa moved back to France, ultimately settling in the small town of Saché in the Indre-et-Loire. Calder shifted his focus to large-scale commissioned works, which would dominate his practice in the last decades of his life. These included such works as ‘Spirale’ (1958) for the UNESCO headquarters in Paris and ‘Flamingo’ (1973) for Chicago’s Federal Center Plaza. Calder died at the age of seventy-eight in 1976, a few weeks after his major retrospective, ‘Calder’s Universe,’ opened at the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York.

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Alexander Calder

Biography

Print Biography
Born
Lawnton PA, 1898
Education

The Art Students League of New York 1923 – 1925
Stevens Institute of Technology 1915 – 1919

Died
New York NY, 1976

Solo Exhibitions

2021
MoMA Museum of Modern Art, 'Alexander Calder. Modern from the Start', New York NY
2019
Hauser & Wirth, 'Calder', St. Moritz, Switzerland
Centro Botín, 'Calder Stories', Santander, Spain
2018
Hauser & Wirth, 'Calder: Nonspace', Los Angeles CA
Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, 'Alexander Calder: Radical Inventor', Montreal, Canada (Travelling Exhibition)
Fundación Proa, 'Alexander Calder: Theater of Encounters', Buenos Aires, Argentina
Hauser & Wirth Somerset, 'Calder: From the Stony River to the Sky', Bruton, UK
2017
Musée Soulages, 'Calder: Forgeron des géantes libellules', Rodez, France
Whitney Museum of American Art, 'Calder: Hypermobility', New York NY
2016
Hauser & Wirth, 'Alexander Calder: Calder in the Alps', Gstaad, Switzerland
2015
Tate Modern, 'Alexander Calder: Performing Sculpture', London, UK
Pushkin Museum, 'Alexander Calder: Retrospective', Moscow, Russia
Museo Jumex, 'Calder: Discipline of the Dance', Mexico City, Mexico
2014
Rijksmuseum, 'Alexander Calder at the Rijksmuseum', Amsterdam, Netherlands
2013
Los Angeles County Museum of Art, 'Calder and Abstraction: From Avant-Garde to Iconic', Los Angeles CA
Kunstsammlung Nordrhein–Westfalen, 'Alexander Calder: Avant-Garde in Motion', Dusseldorf, Germany
Leeum – Samsung Museum of Art, 'Calder', Seoul, South Korea
2012
Gemeentemuseum, 'Alexander Calder: De grote ontdekking', The Hague, Netherlands
2011
National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution, 'Calder's Portraits: A New Language', Washington DC
2009
Palazzo delle Esposizioni, 'Calder: Sculptor of Air', Rome, Italy
Seattle Art Museum, 'Alexander Calder: A Balancing Act', Seattle WA
2008
Whitney Museum of American Art, 'Alexander Calder: The Paris Years, 1926-1933', New York NY (Travelling Exhibition)
Norton Museum of Art, 'Calder Jewelry', West Palm Beach FL (Travelling Exhibition)
Château de Tours, 'Alexandre Calder en Touraine', Tours, France
2006
Pinacoteca do Estato de São Paulo, 'Calder no Brasil', Sao Paulo, Brazil (Travelling Exhibition)
2005
Menil Collection, 'The Surreal Calder', Houston TX (Travelling Exhibition)
2003
Museo Guggenheim Bilbao, 'Calder: Gravedad y la Gracia', Bilbao, Spain (Travelling Exhibition)
2001
Storm King Art Center, 'Grand Intuitions: Calder’s Monumental Sculpture', Mountainville NY
2000
Iwaki City Art Museum, 'Alexander Calder: Motion and Color', Iwaki, Japan (Travelling Exhibition)
Wadsworth Atheneum, 'Calder in Connecticut', Hartford CT
1998
National Gallery of Art, 'Alexander Calder: 1898-1976', Washington DC
1997
Fundacío Joan Miró, 'Calder', Barcelona, Spain
San Jose Museum of Art, 'Flying Colors: The Innovation and Artistry of Alexander Calder', San Jose CA
1995
Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, 'Alexander Calder: Retrospective', Humlebaek, Denmark (Travelling Exhibition)
1993
Musée Picasso, Château Grimaldi, 'Calder: Mobiles, stabiles, gouaches, bijoux…', Antibes, France
1991
Whitney Museum of American Art, 'Celebrating Calder', New York NY (Travelling Exhibition)
1989
Musée des Arts Décoratifs, 'Calder Intime', Paris, France (Travelling Exhibition)
1986
Sheldon Memorial Art Gallery, University of Nebraska, 'Alexander Calder: An American Invention', Lincoln NE
1983
Palazzo a Vela, 'Calder: Mostra retrospettiva', Turin, Italy
1976
Whitney Museum of American Art, 'Calder's Universe', New York NY (Travelling Exhibition)
1975
Haus der Kunst, 'Calder', Munich, Germany (Travelling Exhibition)
1974
Museum of Contemporary Art, 'Alexander Calder: A Retrospective Exhibition, Work from 1925-1974', Chicago IL
1973
Galerie Maeght, 'Alexander Calder: Retrospektive', Zurich, Switzerland
1972
Whitney Museum of American Art, 'Calder's Circus', New York NY
1969
MoMA Museum of Modern Art, 'A Salute to Alexander Calder', New York NY (Travelling Exhibition)
Fondation Maeght, 'Calder', Saint-Paul-de-Vence, France (Travelling Exhibition)
1967
MoMA Museum of Modern Art, 'Calder: 19 Gifts from the Artist', New York NY
1964
Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, 'Alexander Calder: A Retrospective Exhibition', New York NY (Travelling Exhibition)
1962
Tate Gallery / Arts Council of Great Britain, 'Alexander Calder: Sculpture–Mobiles', London, UK
1959
Stedelijk Museum, 'Alexander Calder, Stabilen, Mobilen', Amsterdam, Netherlands (Travelling Exhibition)
1957
Kunsthalle Basel, 'Alexander Calder', Basel, Switzerland (Travelling Exhibition)
1956
Perls Galleries, 'Calder', New York NY
1955
Museo de Bellas Artes, 'Exposiciòn Calder', Caracas, Venezuela
1953
Walker Art Center, 'Alexander Calder Mobiles', Minneapolis MN (Travelling Exhibition)
1952
Curt Valentin Gallery, 'Alexander Calder: Gongs and Towers', New York NY
1950
New Gallery, Charles Hayden Memorial Library, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 'Calder', Cambridge MA
Galerie Maeght, 'Calder: Mobiles & Stabiles', Paris, France (Travelling Exhibition)
1948
Ministerio da Educaçao e Saude, 'Alexander Calder', Rio de Janeiro, Brazil (Travelling Exhibition)
1946
Galerie Louis Carré, 'Alexander Calder: Mobiles, Stabiles, Constellations', Paris, France
1944
Buchholz Gallery/Curt Valentin, 'Recent Work by Alexander Calder', New York NY
1943
MoMA Museum of Modern Art, 'Alexander Calder: Sculptures and Constructions', New York NY
Addison Gallery of American Art, '17 Mobiles by Alexander Calder', Andover MA
1941
San Francisco Museum of Art, 'Mobiles by Alexander Calder, Stabiles and Jewelry', San Francisco CA
1940
Willard Gallery, 'Calder Jewelry', New York NY
1938
George Walter Vincent Smith Gallery, 'Calder Mobiles', Springfield MA
1937
The Mayor Gallery, 'Calder: Mobiles and Stabiles', London, UK
1935
The Renaissance Society at The University of Chicago, 'Mobiles by Alexander Calder', Chicago IL
1934
Pierre Matisse Gallery, 'Mobiles by Alexander Calder', New York NY
1932
Julien Levy Gallery, 'Calder: Mobiles / Abstract Sculptures', New York NY
Galerie Vignon, 'Calder: ses mobiles', Paris, France
1931
Galerie Percier, 'Alexandre Calder: Volumes–Vecteurs–Densités / Dessins–Portraits', Paris, France
1929
Fifty-Sixth Street Galleries, 'Alexander Calder: Paintings, Wood Sculpture, Toys, Wire Sculpture, Jewelry, Textiles', New York NY
Galerie Neumann-Nierendorf, 'Alexander Calder: Skulpturen aus Holz und aus Draht', Berlin, Germany
Galerie Billiet-Pierre Vorms, 'Sculptures bois et fil de fer de Alexander Calder', Paris, France
1928
Weyhe Gallery, 'Wire Sculpture by Alexander Calder', New York NY
1927
Galleries of Jacques Seligmann and Company, Paris, France
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For a comprehensive list of exhibitions and publications, see www.calder.org.

Selected Group Exhibitions

2019
Musée Picasso, 'Calder-Picasso', Paris, France (Travelling Exhibition)
2017
Hauser & Wirth, 'Alexander Calder David Smith', Zurich, Switzerland
2016
Itaú Cultural, 'Calder and Brazilian Art', Sao Paulo, Brazil
Fondation Beyeler, 'Alexander Calder & Fischli/Weiss', Riehen, Switzerland
2015
Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Smithsonian Institution, 'Marvelous Objects: Surrealist Sculpture from Paris to New York', Washington DC
Hauser & Wirth, 'Transparence: Alexander Calder/Francis Picabia', Zurich, Switzerland
Pulitzer Arts Foundation, 'Calder Lightness; Richard Tuttle Wire Pieces; Fred Sandback 64 Three–Part Pieces', St. Louis MO
2013
Centre Pompidou, 'Le Surréalisme et l'objet', Paris, France
2004
Fondation Beyeler, 'Calder–Miró', Riehen, Switzerland (Travelling Exhibition)
1993
Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, 'Picasso and the Age of Iron', New York NY
1968
MoMA Museum of Modern Art, 'The Machine as Seen at the End of the Mechanical Age', New York NY
1953
Museu de Arte Moderna, 'II Bienal do Museu de Arte Moderna de São Paulo', Sao Paulo, Brazil
Wadsworth Atheneum, 'Alexander Calder: Mobiles / Naum Gabo: Kinetic Constructions and Constructions in Space', Hartford CT
1952
La Biennale di Venezia, 'XXVI International Art Exhibition', Venice, Italy
1949
Philadelphia Museum of Art / Fairmount Park Art Association, 'Third International Exhibition of Sculpture', Philadelphia PA
1947
Stedelijk Museum, 'Alexander Calder/Fernand Léger', Amsterdam, Netherlands
1942
Whitelaw Reid Mansion / Coordinating Council of French Relief Societies, 'First Papers of Surrealism', New York NY
1936
MoMA Museum of Modern Art, 'Fantastic Art, Dada and Surrealism', New York NY
MoMA Museum of Modern Art, 'Cubism and Abstract Art', New York NY (Travelling Exhibition)
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Selected Awards

1977
Presidential Medal of Freedom, Washington DC
The Goslar Kaiserring Award for Modern Art, City of Goslar, Goslar, Germany
1975
Honorary Fellow, Royal Academy of Fine Arts, The Hague, Netherlands
United Nations Peace Medal, UN United Nations, New York NY
1974
Commandeur de la Légion d'honneur, Ordre national de la Légion d'honneur, Paris, France
Citoyen d’Honneur, City of Saché, Saché, France
Official Mayoral Decree of ‘Alexander Calder Day in Chicago’ for 25 October; Honorary Citizen of Chicago, City of Chicago, Chicago IL
Le Grand Prix National des Arts, French Ministry of Culture, Paris, France
1971
Gold Medal for Sculpture, American Academy of Arts and Letters / National Institute of Arts and Letters, New York NY
1970
Honorary Doctorate, University of California, Oakland CA
Honorary Degree, Doctor of Laws, University of Glasgow, Glasgow, UK
1969
Honorary Degree, Doctor of Engineering, Stevens Institute of Technology, Hoboken NJ
Key to the City of Grand Rapids, City of Grand Rapids, Grand Rapids MI
1968
Officier de la Légion d’honneur, Ordre national de la Légion d'honneur, Paris, France
1966
Honorary Degree, Doctor of Arts, Harvard University, Cambridge MA
1964
Elected to American Academy of Arts and Letters, American Academy of Arts and Letters, New York NY
1963
President’s Medal, The Art Directors Club of New York, New York NY
1962
Art in America Annual Award for an Outstanding Contribution to American Art, Art in America, New York NY
Creative Arts Awards, Sculpture Medal, Brandeis University, Waltham MA
1961
Fine Arts Gold Medal for Master of Sculpture, AIA American Institute of Architects, Washington DC
1960
Elected to National Institute of Arts and Letters, National Institute of Arts and Letters, New York NY
Gold Medal of Honor in Sculpture, Architectural League of New York, New York NY
1952
Grand Prize for Sculpture, XXVI Biennale di Venezia, Venice, Italy
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Selected Public Collections

Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago IL
Berkeley Art Museum & Pacific Film Archive, University of California, Berkeley CA Centre Pompidou, Paris, France
Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Smithsonian Institution, Washington DC Moderna Museet, Stockholm, Sweden
Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago IL
Museum of Modern Art, New York NY
National Gallery of Art, Washington DC
Peggy Guggenheim Collection, Venice, Italy
Philadelphia Museum of Art, Philadelphia PA
Leeum – Samsung Museum of Art, Seoul, South Korea
San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, San Francisco CA
Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington DC
Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York NY
Whitney Museum of American Art, New York NY
Yale University Art Gallery, Yale University, New Haven CT

Bibliography

Selected Monographs

2020
Perl, Jed, 'Calder. The Conquest of Space. The Later Years: 1940-1976', New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2020, ill.
2019
Goto, Stephanie, Berardini, Andrew, Jones, James (et al.), 'Calder. Nonspace', Zurich: Hauser & Wirth Publishers, 2019, ill. (exh. cat.)
2018
Braeuer Dam, Susan, Holmes, Jessica, Rower, Alexander S. C., 'Alexander Calder: From the Stony River to the Sky', Zurich: Hauser & Wirth Publishers, 2018, ill. (exh. cat.)
2017
Perl, Jed, 'Calder. The Conquest of Time. The Early Years: 1898-1940', New York: Alfred A. Knopf, New Haven: Yale University Press, 2017, ill.
2015
Rower, Alexander S. C. (ed.), 'Calder in France' [Cahiers d’Art no. 1], Paris: Cahiers d’Art, 2015, ill.
2013
Rower, Alexander S. C. (ed.), 'Calder by Matter', Paris: Cahiers d’Art, 2013, ill.
2009
Pierre, Arnauld, 'Calder: Mouvement et Réalité', Paris: Éditions Hazan, 2009, ill.
2008
Mulas, Ugo, Argan, Giulio C., Calder, Alexander, 'Ugo Mulas/Alexander Calder', Milan: Officina Libraria, 2008, ill.
2007
Rower, Alexander S. C., Rower, Holton (eds.), 'Calder Jewelry', New York: Calder Foundation, 2007, ill.
2003
Stern, H. Peter, Collens, David R., Rower, Alexander S. C., 'Calder: Storm King Art Center', Mountainville: Storm King Art Center, 2003, ill. (exh. cat.)
1998
Guerrero, Pedro E., 'Calder at Home: The Joyous Environment of Alexander Calder', New York: Stewart, Tabori & Chang, 1998, ill.
Rower, Alexander S. C., 'Calder Sculpture', New York: Universe, 1998, ill.
1996
Carandente, Giovanni, 'Teodelapio: Alexander Calder', Milan: Edizioni Charta, 1996, ill.
Pierre, Arnauld, 'Calder: La sculpture en mouvement', Paris: Découvertes Gallimard, 1996
1977
Hayes, Margaret, 'Calder. Three Alexander Calders. A Family Memoir', Middlebury: Paul S. Eriksson, 1977, ill.
1975
Bruzeau, Maurice, 'Calder à Saché', Paris: Éditions Cercle d’Art, 1973, ill.
1971
Arnason, H. Harvard, Mulas, Ugo, 'Calder', New York: Viking Press, 1971, ill.
Calder, Alexander, Sweeney, James Johnson, Lelong, Daniel, 'Calder, l’artiste et l’oeuvre' [Archives Maeght no. 1], Paris: Maeght Editeur, 1971, ill.
1966
Arnason, H. Harvard, Guerrero, Pedro E., 'Calder', New York: D. Van Nostrand, 1966
Davidson, Jean (ed.), 'Calder: An Autobiography with Pictures', New York: Pantheon Books, 1966
1951
Sweeney, James Johnson, 'Alexander Calder', New York: Museum of Modern Art, 1951
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Selected images

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Museum Exhibitions

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Events

Fri 11 Mar 2022, 7:00
Recital Hall<br>King's Bruton<br>Plox<br>Bruton<br>BA10 0ED

To celebrate Ida Applebroog’s solo exhibition ‘Right Up To Now 1969 – 2021’, we are thrilled to present a screening of ‘Call Her Applebroog’ (2016) directed by filmmaker, and the artist’s daughter, Beth B. This deeply personal portrait of acclaimed New York–based artist Ida Applebroog was…
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Mon 28 Feb 2022, 11:00

Hauser & Wirth and Chillida Leku are taking part in The Big Draw Festival, join our activities from Somerset, Menorca and Chillida Leku, San Sebastián. The Big Draw is the world’s largest drawing festival with thousands of drawing activities connecting people of all ages with museums,…
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