Alexander Calder
(American, 1898-1976)
PR Media Coverage
Alexander Calder

Born in 1898, Lawnton, Pennsylvania, US

For a comprehensive chronology, see www.calder.org

22 July or August 1898
Calder is born in Lawnton, Pennsylvania, to Nanette Lederer Calder, a painter, and Alexander Stirling Calder, a sculptor. I always thought I was born—at least my mother always told me so—on August 22, 1898. But my grandfather Milne’s birthday was on August 23, so there might have been a little confusion. In 1942, when I wrote the Philadelphia City Hall for a birth certificate, I sent them a dollar and they told me I was born on the twenty-second of July, 1898. So I sent them another dollar and told them, “Look again.” They corroborated the first statement.

December 1909
For Christmas, Calder presents his parents with a dog and a duck that he trimmed from a brass sheet and bent into formation. The duck is kinetic, rocking back and forth when tapped.

October–December 1923
Calder begins classes at the Art Students League of New York, studying life and pictorial composition with John Sloan and portrait painting with George Luks. He studies at the League through December 1925.

Winter 1925
Calder makes hundreds of brush drawings of animals at the Bronx Zoo and the Central Park Zoo. The following year, Animal Sketching, a drawing manual written by Calder with reproductions of 141 of his brush drawings, is published by Bridgman Publishers in New York.

Fall 1926
Calder begins creating Cirque Calder, a complex and unique body of art. Fashioned from wire, fabric, leather, rubber, cork, and other materials, Cirque Calder is designed to be performed for an audience by Calder. It develops into a multi-act articulated series of mechanized sculpture in miniature scale, a distillation of the natural circus. Calder is able to travel with his easily transportable circus and hold performances on both continents. Over the next five years, Calder continues to develop and expand this work of performance art to fill five large suitcases.

Fall 1926
Calder makes his first formal wire sculptures, Josephine Baker I and Struttin’ His Stuff.

October 1930
Accompanied by another American artist, William “Binks” Einstein, Calder visits Mondrian’s studio at 26 rue du Départ. Already familiar with Mondrian’s geometric abstractions, Calder is deeply impressed by the studio environment. It was a very exciting room. Light came in from the left and from the right, and on the solid wall between the windows there were experimental stunts with colored rectangles of cardboard tacked on. Even the victrola, which had been some muddy color, was painted red. I suggested to Mondrian that perhaps it would be fun to make these rectangles oscillate. And he, with a very serious countenance, said: “No, it is not necessary, my painting is already very fast.” This one visit gave me a shock that started things. Though I had heard the word “modern” before, I did not consciously know or feel the term “abstract.” So now, at thirty-two, I wanted to paint and work in the abstract. And for two weeks or so, I painted very modest abstractions. At the end of this, I reverted to plastic work which was still abstract.

27 April–9 May 1931
Calder’s abstract work is presented for the first time in the exhibition “Alexandre Calder: Volumes–Vecteurs–Densités/Dessins–Portraits,” at Galerie Percier, Paris. 

Fall 1931
Marcel Duchamp visits the studio at 14 rue de la Colonie again and sees Calder’s latest works. There was one motor-driven thing, with three elements. The thing had just been painted and was not quite dry yet. Marcel said, “Do you mind?” When he put his hands on it, the object seemed to please him, so he arranged for me to show in Marie Cuttoli’s Galerie Vignon, close to the Madeleine. I asked him what sort of a name I could give these things and he at once produced “Mobile.” In addition to something that moves, in French it also means motive. Duchamp also suggested that on my invitation card I make a drawing of the motor-driven object and print: CALDER/SES MOBILES.

After 12 February 1932
In response to Duchamp’s term “mobile,” Arp asks sarcastically, Well, what were those things you did last year [for Percier’s]—stabiles? Calder adopts “stabile” to refer to his static works.

August 1933
The Calders visit a real-estate agency in Danbury, Connecticut. After viewing several properties, they discover a dilapidated eighteenth-century farmhouse in Roxbury, Connecticut; both Louisa and Calder claim to have been the first to exclaim, “That’s it!”

23 February–13 March 1937
Calder’s first large-scale bolted stabiles, Devil Fish and Big Bird, are on view in “Calder: Stabiles & Mobiles” at the Pierre Matisse Gallery, New York.

May 1937
Calder and Miró visit the Spanish pavilion under construction at the 1937 World’s Fair site in Paris. Calder meets the pavilion’s architects, Josép Lluís Sert and Luis Lacasa. Sert eventually commissions Calder to make Mercury Fountain for the Spanish pavilion. Mined in Almadén in Spain, the mercury symbolizes Republican resistance to fascism.

3–25 December 1940
“Calder Jewelry” is presented at Willard Gallery, New York. In her press release for the show, Willard writes, These works of art are savage and deliberate and self-confidently sophisticated . . . This is a master modern artist’s contribution to the history of fashion. For a world already in chains it is superb stuff.

29 September 1943–16 January 1944
The Museum of Modern Art, New York, presents “Alexander Calder: Sculptures and Constructions,” curated by Sweeney and Duchamp. Calder writes, Simplicity of equipment and an adventurous spirit in attacking the unfamiliar or unknown are apt to result in a primitive and vigorous art. Somehow the primitive is usually much stronger than art in which technique and flourish abound. Originally scheduled to close on 28 November 1943, the exhibition is extended to 16 January 1944 due to public demand.

Before 3 July 1945
Calder produces a series of small-scale works, many from scraps trimmed during the making of other objects. Let’s mail these little objects to [Louis] Carré, in Paris, and have a show, Duchamp suggests when he sees them; by taking advantage of the newly available international airmail system, Duchamp’s action predates “mail art” by nearly two decades. Carré responds to Duchamp’s proposal. Interested show Calder miniatures would also gladly exhibit mobile sculptures available all sizes and colours.

14–19 June 1952
Calder represents the United States in the XXVI Biennale di Venezia. Sweeney installs the exhibition and writes a short text for the exhibition catalogue. Calder wins the Grand Prize for sculpture.

28 June 1952
Calder accepts the commission from Carlos Raúl Villanueva, whom he met through Sert in 1951, to design an acoustic ceiling for Aula Magna, the auditorium of the Universidad Central de Venezuela. He collaborates with the engineering firm Bolt, Beranek, and Newman, Cambridge, Massachusetts.

11 November 1953
The Calders visit Jean to see his renovated mill house in Saché. Calder agrees to a trade of three mobiles for François Premier, a dilapidated seventeenth-century stone house built adjoining a cliff on Jean’s property.

15 March 1957
The Committee of Art Advisors at UNESCO approves Calder’s maquette for a standing mobile. Titled Spirale, the mobile top is made by Calder at Segré’s Iron Works in Connecticut and the stabile bottom is made with the collaboration of Jean Prouvé in France.

27 March 1962
In a letter to Giovanni Carandente, Calder agrees to a proposal to make a sculpture for the Spoleto Festival in Italy. He decides to make “a stabile, which will stand on the ground, + arch the roadway.” His work results in Teodelapio, a monumental stabile, which is completed in August 1962.

6 November 1964–31 January 1965
Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, exhibits “Alexander Calder: A Retrospective Exhibition.” Thomas M. Messer curates the exhibition, which travels to St. Louis, Toronto, Milwaukee, and Des Moines.

14 June 1969
Calder attends the dedication ceremony for La Grande vitesse, a monumental stabile commissioned by the city of Grand Rapids, Michigan, in August 1967. This is the first sculpture to be funded by the public art program of the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA).

14 October 1976–6 February 1977
The Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, with Jean Lipman as curator, exhibits “Calder’s Universe,” a major retrospective. The exhibition travels to fifteen cities throughout the United States and Japan.

11 November 1976
Calder dies in New York City at the home of his daughter Mary.

Selected Solo Exhibitions
For a comprehensive list of exhibitions and publications, see www.calder.org

Alexander Calder: Modern from the Start, The Museum of Modern Art, New York, US

Alexander Calder: Theater of Encounters, Fundación Proa, Buenos Aires, Argentina
Alexander Calder: Radical Inventor, Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, Quebec, Canada

Calder: Hypermobility, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, US
Calder: Forgeron des géantes libellules, Musée Soulages, Rodez, France

Calder: Discipline of the Dance, Museo Jumex, Mexico City, Mexico
Alexander Calder: Retrospective, Pushkin Museum, Moscow, Russia
Alexander Calder: Performing Sculpture, Tate Modern, London, UK

Alexander Calder at the Rijksmuseum, Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam, The Netherlands
Calder: Jewelry, Kukje Gallery, Seoul, Korea

Calder, Leeum, Samsung Museum of Art, Seoul, Korea
Alexander Calder: Avant-Garde in Motion, Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen, Düsseldorf, Germany
Calder and Abstraction: From Avant-Garde to Iconic, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, California, US

Alexander Calder: De grote ontdekking, Gemeentemuseum, The Hague, The Netherlands
Calder Noir, Kukje Gallery, Seoul, Korea

Calder's Portraits: A New Language, National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C., US

Alexander Calder: A Balancing Act, Seattle Art Museum, Washington, US
Calder: Sculptor of Air, Palazzo delle Esposizioni, Rome, Italy

Calder Jewelry, Norton Museum of Art, West Palm Beach, Florida, US
Alexandre Calder en Touraine, Château de Tours, France
Alexander Calder: The Paris Years, 1926–1933, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, US

Calder no Brasil, Pinacoteca do Estato de São Paulo, Brazil

The Surreal Calder, Menil Collection, Houston, US

Calder: Poetry in Motion, Kukje Gallery, Seoul, Korea

Calder: Gravedad y la Gracia, Fundación del Museo Guggenheim Bilbao, Spain

Grand Intuitions: Calder’s Monumental Sculpture, Storm King Art Center, Mountainville, New York, US

Calder in Connecticut, Wadsworth Atheneum, Hartford, Connecticut, US
Alexander Calder: Motion and Color, Iwaki City Art Museum, Japan

Alexander Calder: 1898–1976, National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., US

Flying Colors: The Innovation and Artistry of Alexander Calder, San Jose Museum of Art, California, US
Calder, Fundacío Joan Miró, Barcelona, Spain

Alexander Calder: Retrospective, Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, Humlebaek, Denmark

Calder: Mobiles, stabiles, gouaches, bijoux . . ., Musée Picasso, Château Grimaldi, Antibes, France

Celebrating Calder, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, US

Calder Intime, Musée des Arts Décoratifs, Paris, France

Alexander Calder: An American Invention, Sheldon Memorial Art Gallery, University of Nebraska, Lincoln, US

Calder: Mostra retrospettiva, Palazzo a Vela, Turin, Italy

Calder's Universe, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, US

Calder, Haus der Kunst, Munich, Germany

Alexander Calder: A Retrospective Exhibition, Work from 1925–1974, Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, Illinois, US

Alexander Calder: Retrospektive, Galerie Maeght, Zurich, Switzerland

Calder's Circus, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, US

A Salute to Alexander Calder, The Museum of Modern Art, New York, US

Calder, Fondation Maeght, Saint-Paul-de-Vence, France

Calder: 19 Gifts from the Artist, The Museum of Modern Art, New York, US

Alexander Calder: A Retrospective Exhibition, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, US

Alexander Calder: Sculpture–Mobiles, Arts Council of Great Britain, Tate Gallery, London, UK

Alexander Calder, Stabilen, Mobilen, Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam, The Netherlands

Alexander Calder, Kunsthalle Basel, Basel, Switzerland

Calder, Perls Galleries, New York, US

Exposiciòn Calder, Museo de Bellas Artes, Caracas, Venezuela

Alexander Calder Mobiles, Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, US
II Bienal do Museu de Arte Moderna de São Paulo, Museu de Arte Moderna, São Paulo, Brazil

Alexander Calder: Gongs and Towers, Curt Valentin Gallery, New York, US

Calder: Mobiles & Stabiles, Galerie Maeght, Paris, France
Calder, New Gallery, Charles Hayden Memorial Library, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, US

Alexander Calder, Ministerio da Educaçao e Saude, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Alexander Calder: Mobiles, Stabiles, Constellations, Galerie Louis Carré, Paris, France

Recent Work by Alexander Calder, Buchholz Gallery/Curt Valentin, New York, US

17 Mobiles by Alexander Calder, Addison Gallery of American Art, Andover, Massachusetts, US
Alexander Calder: Sculptures and Constructions, The Museum of Modern Art, New York, US

Mobiles by Alexander Calder, Stabiles and Jewelry, San Francisco Museum of Art, California, US

Calder Jewelry, Willard Gallery, New York, US

Calder Mobiles, George Walter Vincent Smith Gallery, Springfield, Massachusetts, US

Calder: Mobiles and Stabiles, The Mayor Gallery, London, UK

Mobiles by Alexander Calder, The Renaissance Society at The University of Chicago, Illinois, US

Mobiles by Alexander Calder, Pierre Matisse Gallery, New York, US

Calder: ses mobiles, Galerie Vignon, Paris, France
Calder: Mobiles/Abstract Sculptures, Julien Levy Gallery, New York, US

Alexandre Calder: Volumes–Vecteurs–Densités/Dessins–Portraits, Galerie Percier, Paris, France

Sculptures bois et fil de fer de Alexander Calder, Galerie Billiet-Pierre Vorms, Paris, France
Alexander Calder: Skulpturen aus Holz und aus Draht, Galerie Neumann-Nierendorf, Berlin, Germany
Alexander Calder: Paintings, Wood Sculpture, Toys, Wire Sculpture, Jewelry, Textiles, Fifty-Sixth Street Galleries, New York, US

Wire Sculpture by Alexander Calder, Weyhe Gallery, New York, US

The Galleries of Jacques Seligmann and Company, Paris, France

Selected Group Exhibitions
Calder-Picasso, Musée national Picasso-Paris, Paris, France

Alexander Calder & Fischli/Weiss, Fondation Beyeler, Riehen/Basel, Switzerland
Calder and Brazilian Art, Itaú Cultural, São Paulo, Brazil

Calder Lightness; Richard Tuttle Wire Pieces; Fred Sandback 64 Three–Part Pieces, Pulitzer Arts Foundation, St. Louis, Missouri, US
Marvelous Objects: Surrealist Sculpture from Paris to New York, Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Smithsonian Institution, Washington D.C, US

Le Surréalisme et l'objet, Musée National d'Art Moderne, Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris, France

Kukje Gallery: 25 Years, Kukje Gallery, Seoul, Korea

Calder–Miró, Fondation Beyeler, Riehen/Basel, Switzerland

Picasso and the Age of Iron, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, US

The Machine as Seen at the End of the Mechanical Age, The Museum of Modern Art, New York, US

Alexander Calder: Mobiles/Naum Gabo: Kinetic Constructions and Constructions in Space, Wadsworth Atheneum, Hartford, US

XXVI Biennale di Venezia, Venice, Italy

Third International Exhibition of Sculpture, Philadelphia Museum of Art in collaboration with Fairmount Park Art Association, Philadelphia, US

Alexander Calder/Fernand Léger, Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam, The Netherlands

First Papers of Surrealism, Coordinating Council of French Relief Societies, Whitelaw Reid Mansion, New York, US

Cubism and Abstract Art, The Museum of Modern Art, New York, US
Fantastic Art, Dada, Surrealism, The Museum of Modern Art, New York, US

Selected Awards
Presidential Medal of Freedom
The Goslar Kaiserring Award for Modern Art

Honorary Fellow, Royal Academy of Fine Arts, The Hague
United Nations Peace Medal

Commandeur de la Légion d'honneur
Citoyen d’Honneur, City of Saché
Official Mayoral Decree of “Alexander Calder Day in Chicago” for 25 October; Honorary Citizen of Chicago
Le Grand Prix National des Arts

Gold Medal for Sculpture, American Academy of Arts and Letters and the National Institute of Arts and Letters

University of California, Honorary Doctorate
University of Glasgow, Honorary Degree, Doctor of Laws

Stevens Institute of Technology, Honorary Degree, Doctor of Engineering
Key to the City of Grand Rapids, Michigan

Harvard University, Honorary Degree, Doctor of Arts

Elected to American Academy of Arts and Letters

President’s Medal, The Art Directors Club of New York

Art in America Annual Award for an Outstanding Contribution to American Art
Creative Arts Awards, Sculpture Medal, Brandeis University

Officier de la Légion d’honneur

Fine Arts Gold Medal for Master of Sculpture, The American Institute of Architects

Elected to National Institute of Arts and Letters
Gold Medal of Honor in Sculpture, Architectural League of New York

Grand Prize for Sculpture, XXVI Biennale di Venezia

Selected Public and Private Collections
Art Institute of Chicago
University of California, Berkeley Art Museum & Pacific Film Archive
Centre Pompidou, Musée national d'art moderne, Paris
Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C.
Moderna Museet, Stockholm
Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago
The Museum of Modern Art, New York
National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.
Peggy Guggenheim Collection, Venice
Philadelphia Museum of Art
Leeum, Samsung Museum of Art, Seoul
San Francisco Museum of Modern Art
Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington, D.C.
Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York
Whitney Museum of American Art, New York
Yale University Art Gallery, New Haven

Selected Monographs
Sweeney, James Johnson. Alexander Calder. New York: Museum of Modern Art, 1951.
Calder, Alexander, and Jean Davidson, ed. Calder: An Autobiography with Pictures. New York: Pantheon Books, 1966. 
Arnason, H. Harvard, and Pedro E. Guerrero. Calder. New York: D. Van Nostrand, 1966.
Calder, Alexander, James Johnson Sweeney, and Daniel Lelong. Calder, l'artiste et l'oeuvre. Archives Maeght, no. 1. Paris: Maeght Editeur, 1971.
Arnason, H. Harvard, and Ugo Mulas. Calder. New York: Viking Press, 1971.
Bruzeau, Maurice. Calder à Saché. Paris: Éditions Cercle d'Art, 1975. 
Hayes, Margaret Calder. Three Alexander Calders, A Family Memoir. Middlebury, Vt.: Paul S. Eriksson, 1977.
Pierre, Arnauld. Calder: La sculpture en mouvement. Paris: Découvertes Gallimard/Paris-Musées, 1996.
Carandente, Giovanni. Teodelapio: Alexander Calder. Milan: Edizioni Charta, 1996.
Rower, Alexander S. C. Calder Sculpture. New York: Universe, 1998.
Guerrero, Pedro E. Calder at Home: The Joyous Environment of Alexander Calder. New York: Stewart, Tabori & Chang, 1998.
Stern, H. Peter, David R. Collens, and Alexander S. C. Rower. Calder: Storm King Art Center. Mountainville, N.Y.: Storm King Art Center, 2003.
Calder Jewelry. Edited by Alexander S. C. Rower and Holton Rower. New York: Calder Foundation, 2007.
Mulas, Ugo, Alexander Calder, and Giulio C. Argan. Ugo Mulas/Alexander Calder. Milan: Officina Libraria, 2008.
Pierre, Arnauld. Calder: Mouvement et Réalité. Paris: Éditions Hazan, 2009.
Calder by Matter. Edited by Alexander S. C. Rower. Paris: Cahiers d'Art, 2013.
“Calder in France.” Cahiers d’Art, no. 1 (2015). Edited by Alexander S. C. Rower.
Perl, Jed. Calder: The Conquest of Time: The Early Years: 1898–1940. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2017.