* 1898 Philadelphia
† 1976 New York
Alexander Calder was born in Lawnton near Philadelphia (Pennsylvania) on July 22, 1898. His father, Alexander Stirling Calder, was a sculptor and his mother, Nanette Lederer, a painter. The family changed their home several times until 1915, for instance to Los Angeles, Pasadena, New York and finally to San Francisco, where the father was commissioned to do the sculpting works for the 1915 world exhibition.
Alexander Calder studied engineering at the Stevens Institute of Technology in Hoboken, New Jersey from 1915 to 1919. He takes drawing courses with Clinton Balmer in New York as of 1922 and joins the Art Students League in 1923, where he studies until 1925. Calder works for the magazine "National Police Gazette" as of 1924, for which he does drawings of news coverages, sport events and circus shows. For two weeks in 1925, he attends the daily show of a travelling circus in New York.
In 1926 Alexander Calder moves to Paris where he studies at the Académie de la Grande Chaumière and makes first small figure of wire, wood and cloth. In spring of 1927 he sets up a complete miniature circus with these figures, and performs shows that are visited by many Parisian artists.
His miniature figures are on exhibition in the New Yorker Weyhe Gallery in 1928. By now Paris has become his permanent place of residence where he also has a studio. His first one-man show takes place at the Paris Galerie Billiet-Pierre Vorms in 1929.
Inspired by a visit to the studio of Piet Mondrian, Calder increasingly deals with abstractions as of 1930 and joins the artists group "Abstraction-Création". Finally, a visit to the Paris observatory is a major inspiration for his first mobile and abstract wire sculptures, for which Marcel Duchamp comes up with the term "Mobile". Alexander Calder first presents these "Mobiles" in the Galerie Vignon in Paris in 1932. Besides plastics that move when touched by a breath of air, he at first also makes constructions that are moved by a small motor.
Alexander Calder and his wife Louisa James return to the USA in 1933, where they settle in a farm house in Roxbury (Connecticut). In 1934 he creates the first open air mobile that he calls "Steel Fish" which is 3,5 meters tall. Alexander Calder's mobiles are also successfully exhibited in the USA. The balanced constructions of metal elements, batons, threads and wire become Calder'S true form of art, they become more and more complex, however, their impression is always one of great poetry and playful airiness. As counterparts to the mobiles, Alexander Calder also makes immobile, tectonically heavy, partly monumental constructions of sheet metal, for which Jean Arp invents the term "Stabile".
Besides sculptures, Calder also makes stage designs, book illustrations, graphics, gouaches as well as jewelry.
Alexander Calder dies in New York on November 11, 1976 and is buried in Roxbury.