Composition by ALEXANDER CALDER (1898 - 1976)

Gouache on paper
75 x 109.5 cm (29½ x 43⅛ inches)
Signed, dated and dedicated lower right, à Ray & Jeanne Sutter, Sandy Calder 70


Provenance
Raymond & Jeanne Sutter collection, gifted from the artist,
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Alexander Calder
Composition, ALEXANDER CALDER - Gouache, Contemporary, Abstract

1970

About

Composition by ALEXANDER CALDER (1898 - 1976) Gouache on paper 75 x 109.5 cm (29½ x 43⅛ inches) Signed, dated and dedicated lower right, à Ray & Jeanne Sutter, Sandy Calder 70 Provenance Raymond & Jeanne Sutter collection, gifted from the artist, 1970  Private collection, Paris Galerie Carole Brimaud, Paris Private collection, 1992 This work is registered in the archives of the Calder Foundation, New York, number A28063. Artist biography: Alexander Calder was born in 1898 in Philadelphia, the son of Alexander Stirling Calder and grandson of Alexander Milne Calder, both well-known sculptors. After obtaining his mechanical engineering degree from the Stevens Institute of Technology, Calder had various jobs before enrolling at the Art Students League in New York City in 1923. Calder is renowned for developing a new idiom in modern art - the mobile. His works in this mode, from miniature to monumental, are called mobiles (suspended moving sculptures), standing mobiles (anchored moving sculptures) and stabiles (stationary constructions). Calder's abstract works are characteristically direct, spare, buoyant, colourful and finely crafted. He made ingenious, frequently witty, use of natural and manmade materials, including wire, sheet metal, wood and bronze. In June 1926, Calder moved to Paris. He took some classes at the Academie de la Grande Chaumiere and made his first wire sculptures. Calder created a miniature circus in his studio; the animals, clowns and tumblers were made of wire and animated by hand. Many leading artists of the period attended, and helped with, the performances. Calder's first New York City exhibition was in 1928, and other exhibitions in Paris and Berlin gained him international recognition as a significant artist. A visit to Piet Mondrian's studio proved pivotal. Calder began to work in an abstract style, finishing his first non-objective construction in 1931. In early 1932, he exhibited his first moving sculpture in an exhibition organized by Marcel Duchamp, who coined the word "mobile." Calder’s kinetic works range from being suspended and anchored, and are often monumental in size; he describes their performative element as “dancing in front of you”. Calder compared his stationary sculptures, dubbed ‘stabiles’ by Jean Arp, to traditional paintings as they simply imply movement. His exploration of motion in art began with using motors, but soon Calder used air-currents alone, creating movement he described as occurring "by nature and chance." The subtle, continuous movement of the suspended forms redefine the negative space around their abstract forms. In May 1932, Calder's fame was consolidated by the first United States show of his mobiles. Some were motor-driven, His later wind-driven mobiles enabled the sculptural parts to move independently, as Calder said, "by nature and chance." Calder returned to the United States to live and work in Roxbury, Massachusetts in June 1932. From the 1940s on, Calder's works, many of them large-scale outdoor sculptures, have been placed in virtually every major city of the Western world. In the 1950s, he created two new series of mobiles: "Towers," which included wall-mounted wire constructions, and "Gongs," mobiles with sound. In addition to his renowned sculptural compositions, Calder also produced a wealth of drawings, oil paintings, watercolours, and gouache throughout his artistic career. He commenced his study of printmaking when he moved to Paris, and he proceeded to illustrate for books and journals. As Calder's sculptural oeuvre shifted towards abstraction in the mid-1930s, his prints followed suit; colourful, geometric shapes predominate his works of this time. Today, Calder’s works inhabit many major cities in the world, including many large-scale outdoor sculptures. Calder died in 1976.

Details

  • Dimensions
    H 27.56 in. x W 43.12 in.H 70 cm x W 109.5 cm
  • Gallery Location
    London, GB
  • Reference Number
    LU26121748963
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About Alexander Calder (Artist)

The American sculptor Alexander Calder is known as the father of the mobile, a moving artwork composed of delicately balanced sculptural forms suspended from the ceiling. Because his parents, both artists themselves, did not want him to suffer the hardships of trying to make a living in art, they encouraged the young Calder to study mechanical engineering at the Stevens Institute of Technology, in Hoboken, New Jersey. He worked a number of jobs, including as a hydraulic engineer and draftsman for the New York Edison Company, before deciding to pursue an artistic career. He never abandoned his engineering background, however, applying his understanding of gears and moving parts in all his artworks, from mechanical toys like the Cirque Calder (1931) to his free-standing abstract sculptures, called stabiles.


     In 1926, Calder moved to Paris and established a studio in the Montparnasse quarter. He began creating the many parts of his famous miniature circus from found materials, such as wire, string, cloth, rubber and cork. Designed to be transportable, Cirque grew to fill five suitcases over the years. Always interested in putting forms in motion, Calder also pioneered a new art form called wire sculptures, which he described as “drawings in space.” Like his famous mobiles, the wire sculptures were suspended so that they turned with any movement of the air, presenting different forms when viewed from different angles.


     In the 1950s, Calder returned to his roots in mechanical engineering, creating monumental abstract sculptures that verged on the architectural. He worked from loose gestural drawings like this preparatory sketch for his Man Stabile, from 1966. Throughout his career, he also worked as a set designer for the theater, as well as an illustrator and printmaker, producing vibrant, whimsical drawings for books and journals, such as this stunning lithograph of an elephant and two cats.

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