Snake and the Cross 1936
Alexander Calder 1898-1976
American sculptor and draughtsman, pioneer of mobiles. Born in Philadelphia, the son and grandson of sculptors. Studied engineering and worked at various jobs before attending the Art Students League, New York, to study painting 1923-6. Began in 1926 to make small animated animals in wood and wire, which eventually became numerous enough to form a circus. First one-man exhibition at the Weyhe Gallery, New York, 1928. Lived 1928-33 mainly in Paris, where he became friendly with Miró and Pascin, and joined the group Abstraction-Creation 1931. Started to make sculptures, to which Duchamp gave the name mobiles, which could be moved by hand or by small electric motors, followed from 1934 by pieces which were set in motion by air currents. The name stabiles was later suggested by Arp for his sculptures which did not move. Lived mainly in the USA, at Roxbury, Connecticut, from 1933 until 1953, when he also bought a house at Sache (Indre-et-Loire). Awarded the main prize for sculpture at the 1952 Venice Biennale and the First Prize for Sculpture at the 1958 Pittsburgh International. Died in New York.
Ronald Alley, Catalogue of the Tate Gallery’s Collection of Modern Art other than Works by British Artists, Tate Gallery and Sotheby Parke-Bernet, London 1981, pp.91-2
Marvellous show at the Tate…. Performing Sculpture. Particularly interesting to see his early wire sculptures of circus performers and the development of his work into his abstract mobiles. Incredibly adept at bending wire to create a likeness in a portrait often with touches of humour as with the breasts of the circus performer being affected by gravity. He made the complicated mobiles look very simple and with the added bonus of shadows they are quite mesmorising.