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Alexander Calder Portrait

Alexander Calder Portrait Alexander Calder Portrait

Alexander Calder

Also Known as: Sandy Calder

Lawnton, Pennsylvania 1898

New York, New York 1976

Active in:

  • Roxbury, Connecticut
  • Sache, France

Photo Caption:
Alexander Calder, ca. 1927, Peter A. Juley & Son Collection, Smithsonian American Art Museum J0050095

Photo Caption:
Alexander Calder with sculpture, ca. 1929, Peter A. Juley & Son Collection, Smithsonian American Art Museum J0050013

Luce Artist Quote

"Just as one can compose colors, or forms, so one can compose motions." Alexander Calder, quoted posthumously in National Gallery of Art brochure, 1998 "Above all, art should be happy." Alexander Calder, quoted posthumously in Christian Science Monitor, December 1981


Sculptor, world renowned for his stabiles and mobiles begun in the 1930s. Calder's vision was broad and groundbreaking, and his output was prodigious—ranging from small figurines to large, architecturally related sculptures, from whimsical toys to stage sets.

Joan Stahl American Artists in Photographic Portraits from the Peter A. Juley & Son Collection (Washington, D.C. and Mineola, New York: National Museum of American Art and Dover Publications, Inc., 1995)

Additional Biographies

Alexander Calder was born in Philadelphia in 1898, the son of the distinguished academic sculptor A. Stirling Calder. Trained as a mechanical engineer, he turned to art, attending the Art Students League in New York City. There he took classes with George Luks, Guy Pène du Bois, Boardman Robinson, and John Sloan and subsequently he established himself as an illustrator and caricaturist in New York.

While in Paris in 1926, he took up sculpture. After working on wood pieces, he began to make circus figures composed of twisted wire, wheels, string, and cloth. His miniature circus captured the attention of the avant-garde in Paris, where he met and was influenced by a number of artists.

Impressed by the work of Juan Miró, Jean Arp, and Fernand Léger, he created his first abstract stabiles in 1930. These works also owe much to the rectilinear designs of Piet Mondrian. From these early works and his interest in movement, Calder developed handcranked, motorized, and then wind-powered constructions that were dubbed "mobiles" by the French artist Marcel Duchamp. These sculptures, usually painted in bold basic colors, turn, bob, and rotate, in a constantly changing relationship to the space around them.

National Museum of American Art (CD-ROM) (New York and Washington D.C.: MacMillan Digital in cooperation with the National Museum of American Art, 1996)