Alexander Calder (American, born July 22, 1898–died November 11, 1976) is one of the most celebrated sculptors of the 20th century. Born in Pennsylvania, Calder was interested in creating movable objects from a young age, and graduated from the Stevens Institute of Technology in Hoboken, NJ, in 1919, with an engineering degree. He later decided to pursue a career as an artist, and moved to New York City to study painting at the Art Students League. While in New York City, he worked for the National Police Gazette, and was sent on assignment to sketch circuses, a festive motif that would become a famous and enduring subject in his work. Upon moving to Paris in 1926, Calder began creating large-scale mechanical installations of intricate circus scenes, featuring wire sculptures with moving parts that he would operate over a two-hour performance session. Building off of his Cirque Calder, he began sculpting portraits and figures out of wire, and received critical attention, exhibiting these works in subsequent gallery shows in New York, Paris, and Berlin.

He befriended several important Abstract artists in Paris at this time, including Joan Miró and Piet Mondrian, and was invited to join the group Abstraction-Création in 1931. Inspired by the work of his fellow artists, he incorporated abstract, kinetic elements into his sculptures, creating the Mobiles he is best known for today, in addition to his static works, Stabiles. Calder constructed his unique sculptures out of wire, metal, and wood, combining abstract and surrealistic forms with biomorphic imagery in a distinctive style. His structures were carefully weighted and balanced, remaining sensitive to the movement of the wind or the motions of the viewer. Internationally celebrated for his wholly unique, whimsical pieces, Calder produced a wide-ranging body of work during his lifetime, including sculptures, drawings, paintings, jewelry, and set designs. He has had several retrospectives, and, among many other awards, was honored with the Presidential Medal of Freedom and the Bicentennial Artist Award from the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York City in 1976. He died that same year, at 78 years old.

Timeline

1898
Born in Philadelphia, PA
1909
Parents provide him with a workshop at age eleven
1919
Graduated from Stevens Institute of Technology in Hoboken, NJ
Worked as engineer at logging camp in Washington state
1923
Moved to New York, NY and attended Art Students League
Worked as illustrator for newspapers and advertisers
1925
Employed at Central Park Zoo and Bronx Zoo, New York, NY
1926
Attended Académie de la Grande Chaumière, Paris, France
1931
Settled in Paris, France
1933
Moved back to the U.S. and buys house in Roxbury, CT
1939
Commissioned to make mobile installed in main stairwell of Museum of Modern Art, New York, NY
1949
Constructed largest mobile to date, hung over main stairwell of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, Philadelphia, PA
1952
Awarded grand prize for sculpture, Venice Biennale, Venice, Italy
1957–1958
Received several commissions for large-scale public sculpture, including a mobile for JFK Airport commissioned by Port Authority of New York and a stabile for UNESCO Paris headquarters
1967–1968
Sculpture commissions for Expo ’67 in Montreal and 1968 Olympic Games in Mexico City
1976
Died in New York, NY

Exhibitions

2013
Artistic Relationships: Partners, Mentors, Lovers - Bechtler Museum of Modern Art, Charlotte, NC
Dynamo Un Siecle De Lumiere Et De Mouvement Dans L’art 1913-2013 - Galeries nationales du Grand Palais, Paris
Puppet Show - Eastside Projects, Birmingham (England)
In the Library - The National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC
fun house - Richard Gray Gallery - New York, New York City, NY
2012
The Complete Bronzes - L&M Arts, New York, New York City, NY
Calder Noir - Kukje Gallery, Seoul
Alexander Calder - Crane Kalman Gallery, London (England)
Alexander Calder - Gemeentemuseum Den Haag, The Hague
Building the Collection: Art Acquired in the 1990s - Arkansas Arts Center, Little Rock, AR
2011
Alexander Calder: The Painter - Helly Nahmad Gallery, London (England)
Alexander Calder: 1941 - The Pace Gallery - 32 East 57th Street, New York City, NY
Alexander Calder: Gouaches - Pace Prints, New York City, NY
Calder - Huntington Museum of Art, Huntington, WV
Calder's Portraits: A New Language - The National Portrait Gallery, Washington, DC
2010
Alexander Calder - Galería Elvira González, Madrid
Calder Jewelry - GRAM - Grand Rapids Art Museum, Grand Rapids, MI
Retrospective - Zadok Art Gallery, Miami, FL
Alexander Calder - Van de Weghe Fine Art, New York City, NY
2009
Alexander Calder: Printmaker - Bruce Museum, Greenwich, CT
Alexander Calder - Palazzo delle Esposizioni, Rome
Alexander Calder - Monumental Sculpture - Gagosian Gallery, Rome
Alexander Calder - Olympic Sculpture Park, Seattle, WA
Alexander Calder: 1969 The Fortieth Anniversary of La Grande vitesse - Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park, Grand Rapids, MI
2008
Alexander Calder: Gouaches, Ricco Maresca Gallery, New York City, NY (solo)
Alexander Calder Jewlery, Norton Museum of Art, West Palm Beach, FL (solo)
2007
Focus: Alexander Calder, MoMA - Museum of Modern Art, New York City, NY (solo)
2006
The Surreal Calder, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art , San Francisco, CA; Minneapolis Institute of Arts, Minneapolis, MN (solo)
Calder in Brazil, Paco Imperial, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil (solo)
I Think Best in Wire: Alexander Calder, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, NY (solo)
Calder Gouaches: 1942-1976, PaceWildenstein, New York, NY (solo)
Calder: From Model to Monument, PaceWildenstein, New York, NY (solo)
2005
Alexander Calder: Two Monumental Sculptures, Gagosian Gallery, New York., NY (solo)
Alexander Calder, Samuel Vanhoegaerden Gallery, Knokke-Heist, Belgium (solo)
2004
Alexander Calder, Kukje Gallery, Seoul, South Korea (solo)
Calder: Gravedad y la Gracia, Museo Nacional - Centro de Arte Reina Sofia, Madrid, Spain (solo)
2003
Calder: Gravedad y la Gracia, Fundacion del Museo Guggenheim Bilbao, Spain (solo)
Alexander Calder, Gagosian Gallery, Beverly Hills, CA (solo)
2002
Calder '76: The Cutouts, PaceWildenstein, New York, NY (solo)
Alexander Calder: Motion and Color, Nagoya City Art Museum, Nagoya, Japan (solo)
Calder: Four Maquettes, Two Stabiles and a Little Bird Too, Ameringer Fine Arts, New York, NY (solo)
2001
Alexander Calder: Motion and Color, Museum of Modern Art, Toyama, Japan (solo)
Alexander Calder in Focus, Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, IL (solo)
2000
Earthly Forms: The Biomorphic Sculpture of Arp, Calder and Noguchi, PaceWildenstein, New York, NY
1999
An Adventurous Spirit: Calder at The Phillips Collection, Phillips Collection, Washington, D.C (solo)
Alexander Calder, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, NY (solo)
1998
Alexander Calder: 1898-1976, National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C. and SF MoMA (solo)
Flying Colors: The Innovation and Artistry of Alexander Calder, San Jose Museum of Art, San Jose , CA (solo)
1996
Alexander Calder: 1898-1976, Musee d'Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris, Paris, France (solo)
Celebrating Calder, The Baltimore Museum of Art, Baltimore, MD (solo)
1994
Calder, Bibliotheque Municipale and Abbaye Saint-Germain, Auxerre, France (solo)
Calder Gallery Installation, Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C. (solo)
1993
Alexander Calder from the Collection of the Ruth and Leonard J. Horwich Family, Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, IL (solo)
1992
Celebrating Calder, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, NY (solo)
Alexander Calder, Royal Academy of Arts, London, UK (solo)
1989
The Intimate World of Alexander Calder, Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum, Smithsonian Institution, New York, NY; Minneapolis Institute of Arts, Minneapolis, MN (solo)
1987
Alexander Calder: Sculptures of the Nineteen Thirties, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, NY (solo)
1984
Calder, Museo de Bellas Artes, Caracas, Venezuela (solo)
Des Stabiles et des Mobiles de Calder, Musee National d'Art Moderne, Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris, France (solo)
1982
Tapices de Alexander Calder, Museo de Arte Moderno, Mexico City, Mexico (solo)
1981
Alexander Calder: A Concentration of Works from the Permanent Collection, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, NY (solo)
1978
Images de Calder, Musee National d'Art Moderne, Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris, France (solo)
Calder's Universe, San Jose Museum of Art, CA; Portland Art Museum, OR; Phoenix Art Museum, AZ (solo)
1977
Alexander Calder Memorial, American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters, New York, NY (solo)
Calder's Universe, Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, MN; High Art Musuem, Atlanta, GA (solo)
1976
Calder, Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, Philadelphia, PA (solo)
Retrospective, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, NY (solo)
1963
Calder gouache show, Perls Gallery, New York (solo)
Retrospective, Guggenheim Museum, New York, NY (solo)
1962
Retrospective, Tate Gallery, London, UK
1950
Galerie Maeght, Paris, France (solo)
Retrospective, Masachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, MA (solo)
1943
Retrospective, Museum of Modern Art, New York, NY (solo)
Addison Gallery of American Art, Andover, MA (solo)
1932
Julien Levy Gallery, New York, NY (solo)
1929
Galerie Billiet, Paris, France (solo)
1928
Weyhe Gallery, New York, NY (solo)
1926
Artist's Gallery, New York, NY

Public Collections

Peggy Guggenheim Collection, Venice, Italy
National Gallery of Art, Washington D.C.
Museum of Modern Art, New York, NY
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, MA
Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, TX
Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington D.C
Guggenheim Museum, New York, NY
Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, San Francisco, CA
Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago, IL
Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Philadelphia, PA
Whitney Museum of American Art, New York , NY
Tate Gallery, London, UK
Reina Sofía National Museum, Madrid, Spain
Philadelphia Museum of Art, Philadelphia, PA
Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Los Angeles, CA
Indianapolis Museum of Art, IN
Dallas Museum of Art, TX
Cleveland Museum of Art, Cleveland, OH
Centre Pompidou, Paris, France

Literature

2005
Rosenthal, Mark, and Alexander S. C. Rower. The Surreal Calder. Houston, TX: The Menil Collection, 2005
1998
Guerrero, Pedro E. Calder at Home. The Joyous Environment of Alexander Calder. New York: Stewart, Tabori & Chang, 1998
Prather, Marla. Alexander Calder 1898 - 1976. Washington D.C.: National Gallery of Art, 1998
1966
Calder, Alexander. An Autobiography With Pictures. New York: Pantheon Books, 1966