Alexander Calder was an American sculptor born in Lawnton, Pennsylvania in 1898. He’s best known as the originator of the mobile. He also produced numerous wire figures, most notably for a vast miniature circus, “Cirque Calder.” In addition to sculpture, Calder painted throughout his career, beginning in the early 1920s.
His studies in art began in New York at the Art Student’s League. During this time, he worked for the National Police Gazette, and in 1925 one of his assignments was sketching the Ringling Brothers and Barnum and Bailey Circus, a theme that would recur throughout his work. He moved to Paris in 1926 where he picked up the study of printmaking and continued to produce illustrations for books and journals. His many projects from this period include pen-and-ink line drawings of animals for a 1931 publication of “Aesop’s Fables.” During this time, he worked from a studio in Montparnasse, and made friends with a number of avante-garde artists, including Joan Miró, Jean Arp, and Marcel Duchamp.
In 1929, he met his wife Louisa James, the grandniece of author Henry James, while traveling by ship from Paris to New York. He contributed many monumental sculptures through public commissions, such as “.125” for JFK Airport in 1957, “La Spirale” for UNESCO in Paris in 1958, “Man (L’Homme)” for Expo 67 in Montreal in 1967, and “El Sol Rojo” as part of the 1968 Summer Olympics Cultural Olympiad in Mexico City. He published his “Autobiography with Pictures” in 1966.
He died unexpectedly in November 1976 shortly after opening a major retrospective at the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York, which today houses the largest body of his work. Other important Calder museum collections include the Museum of Modern Art in New York, the Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris, and the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía in Madrid.