Alexander Calder

United States of America  1898–1976

Alexander Calder was born in Lawton, Pennsylvania, on 22 July 1898. He initially trained as a mechanical engineer, receiving his degree from the Stevens Institute of Technology, Hoboken, New Jersey, in 1919, before undertaking classes at the Arts Students League, New York, from 1923 to 1926. In 1926 he travelled to Europe then settled in Paris, where performances of his wire and wooden miniature circus figures earned him an enthusiastic following. He returned to the United States in 1927 and showed his work at the Weyhe Gallery, New York, in 1928, his first solo exhibition. In the following years he moved regularly between New York and Paris, showing work in both cities and becoming friendly with many European artists, including Joan Miró, Fernand Léger and Piet Mondrian.

By 1931 Calder was a member of the Paris-based Abstraction–Création group and in that year exhibited his first abstract works at Galerie Percier, Paris. He showed his first mobiles in 1932 at Galerie Vignon, Paris, and Julian Levy Gallery, New York. In 1933 he re-established himself in the United States, settling in Roxbury, Connecticut. A retrospective of his work was held at the Walter Vincent Smith Art Gallery, Springfield, Massachusetts, in 1938 and in 1952 exhibited at the Venice Biennale. In 1953 Calder established a studio in the small town of Saché, near Tours, France. A number of retrospective exhibitions were mounted towards the end of the artist’s life: at the Tate Gallery, London, in 1962; the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, in 1964; the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, in 1974; and at the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, in 1976. Calder died in New York on 11 November 1976. In 1998 a major centennial retrospective, Alexander Calder: 1898–1976, was organised by the National Gallery of Art, Washington D.C., which travelled to the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art the same year.

See more works by this artist in the NGA collection

Alexander Calder Night and day 1964 © Calder Foundation, New York/Copyright Agency Purchased 1978 Learn more

Alexander Calder La Bobine [Bobbin] 1970 © Calder Foundation, New York/Copyright Agency Purchased 1972 Learn more