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Alexander Calder

(1898—1976) American sculptor and painter

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US sculptor and painter, who was one of the first artists to introduce movement into sculpture through his invention of mobiles.

Although his grandfather and his father were both sculptors and his mother was a painter, Calder studied engineering (1915–19) and tried a variety of jobs before turning to art studies in 1923. In the mid-1920s he began to exhibit paintings and to produce wire sculptures. The miniature circus he created during his stay in Paris (1926–27) and the performances that he gave with it in his studio are typical of the humour and fantasy that went into many of his works.

By 1931, when Calder joined the Abstraction-Création association, the abstract paintings of Mondrian had begun to have a strong effect on his work. He wrote of his desire to make ‘moving Mondrians’ and created abstract constructions of brightly coloured flat metal shapes on wires, which were set in motion by hand or by small motors. After 1934 these ‘mobiles’, as Duchamp named them, tended to be free-moving, responding unpredictably to surrounding air currents. Calder described these and his nonmoving ‘stabiles’ as ‘four-dimensional drawings’.

In later years many of his constructions were on a grander scale, such as the Red Sun (1967) for the Olympic stadium in Mexico, which was 24 metres high.

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