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Gwenfritz

ca. 1968 Alexander Calder Born: Lawnton, Pennsylvania 1898 Died: New York, New York 1976 iron 413 3/8 in. (1050.0 cm.) h. Smithsonian American Art Museum Gift of the Morris and Gwendolyn Cafritz Foundation Image courtesy of Smithsonian Institution Archives 1969.116 Smithsonian National Museum of American History, exterior, west side, on view


Gallery Label

American artist Alexander Calder (1898-1976) is internationally acclaimed for his mobiles—kinetic abstract sculptures, and stabiles—stationary equivalents. In 1968, Calder completed a forty-foot high stabile which he titled Gwenfritz in honor of his patron Gwendolyn Cafritz, who commissioned the monument in response to First Lady Claudia “Lady Bird” Johnson’s initiative to improve the appearance of civic spaces in Washington, DC. Gwenfritz was among the first examples of abstract public art to appear in the nation’s capital.
Calder worked closely with steel fabricators at Etablissements Biémont in Tours, located near his studio in Saché, France, to create the seventy-one steel plates that comprise Gwenfritz. Upon completion, the artist shipped the thirty-five ton sculpture in pieces to Washington, D.C. where the Smithsonian oversaw the assembly and painting of the steel plates in accordance with Calder’s recommendations.
In the years leading up to the sculpture’s completion, the museum’s director David Scott corresponded frequently with Calder to discuss progress on the commission and prepare for the placement of Gwenfritz in a purpose-built reflecting pool on the west side of what is now the National Museum of American History. Their correspondence also documents Calder’s work on Nenuphar, a smaller stabile made specifically for the 1968 opening of the American Art Museum at its current location.

Keywords

Abstract - geometric

sculpture

metal - iron