Alexander Calder’s Life

By: Edmund Fung

Leap English 2-B October 11, 2007

Fung 1 Thesis: Alexander had a life towards abstract art.

I. Beginning of Life A. Birth Place 1. Location 2. Ancestors B. Childhood 1. Early Interest 2. School II. Middle Transition A. School with little money B. Circus/ money earning C. Influences 1. Important people 2. Close friends D. Going Abstract/ Goal III. Towards fame A. Mobiles B. Highlight fame 1. Sculptures 2. Abstract mobile IV. Death

Fung 2 A. Major public commissions B. Fame C. Death

Fung 3 “My mobiles are objects in space. I am not a sculptor because I want to avoid telling stories.” – Alexander Calder. Alexander had a life towards abstract art and is one of the most loved and known American artist (Greenfield 5). Alex did not have a very wealthy life, although he did make very famous works that everyday people would see because his works are placed on the streets of major cities throughout the world (Greenfield 100-101). Alexander Calder lived from July 22, 1898 to November 11, 1976. (Safra 736). He is born in a town called Lawton, Pennsylvania, which is now part of Philadelphia. His roots were from Scotland, where his grandfather was born (Greenfield 6-7). His grandfather, dad and mom were artists too, creating an artful family (Gurney 27). Alex’s personality is a warm and witty, practical joke guy. He is also a guy who was an artist, who please many people, and he seems like he effortlessly make his works of art (Greenfield 5). From Alex’s early childhood, he was fascinated with animals especially by the shapes and movements (Greenfield 13). When he was an infant, he had an extraordinary imagination, which allowed him to manipulate scraps into interesting and wellknown forms (Greenfield 11). With those scraps, he made numbers of pets on Noah’s Ark (Greenfield 13). Other then his imagination in art and academic success, Alex was very sociable too. He was quite popular in his grade and did some physical sports such as football for pleasure (Greenfield 17). During his years in school, he got the nickname of “Sandy”. By the time he was 17, he had moved at least 10 times throughout the USA (Greenfield 11). Through this time

Fung 4 though, his pleasure, and persistence grew of making works of art by the scraps of material he found. This led him towards his life of odd creations. Alex did not have a lot of money during his school life (Greenfield 22). Therefore, he didn’t get a lot of time to devote into his art as much he work have liked. To earn money, he decorated buildings. For example, he decorated the A.G. sporting goods store with drawings of athletes and was paid $150. With the money and time issue, he actually took night school too, which was his first step towards being a professional artist (Greenfield 18). At last, Alex did receive a engineering degree from the Steven’s Institute of Technology, which will later contribute to his mobiles (Greenfield 22). In his stay at Europe, he made some famous circus figures. All the circus figures were hand made with various normal items. They were known as the Cirque Calder (“Calder’s Circus”). At first, Alex only showed it to a couple of friends, but as time passed and the figures grew in numbers, so he showed it to anyone who would want to see his circus. He even started charging money for admission (Greenfield 36). Alex had several influence. His dad was sculptor and his mom was a painter, they served as the base (Gurney 27). Towards the late 1920s in Paris, Alex met and was influenced by an abstract artist named Naum Gabo. Naum Gabo was a leading representative of abstract art (Cavaliere 25). Miro also had a very important impact on Alex’s life too. He got Alex into surrealism and they both made a lasting friendship (Safra 736). As close friends, they shared ideas, and admired each other’s artwork (Greenfield 47). Alex also knew a Dutch abstract painter

Fung 5 named Piet Mandrian. He got Alex into abstract art. Abstract art is lines, colors, and shapes for themselves with not much relationship with the other lines and shapes (Greenfield 57). After Alex met Mandrian, his first stage of artwork with paintings, wire and wood sculptors has ceased (Greenfield 58). Now he will start to take abstract art more seriously (Greenfield 57). In 1931, Alex as married to Louisa James. They traveled throughout the world from USA to France to South America and Asia. From 1955 to 1956, Alex made 11 mobiles on they trip at India (Safra 736). Now his ultimate goal, is to make gigantic, large-scale artwork statues (Greenfield 83-84). At this time in Alex’s life, he is interested to make things that reacts to the air movement. His work is called the mobile (Greenfield 68). In 1930, Alex made more development in his idea of the mobile. At first, his mobiles were small, but soon later, they got to monumentality sized (Safra 736). His mobiles were made with painted aluminum sheets and either bolted or wired together. Alex is best known to bring nature motion into art. He created these mobiles from 1930s to 1970s (Cavaliere 25). In 1940, Alex made one of his first large monuments, the Black Beast. It is still the biggest to this day, nearly 9 feet high and 11 feet wide (Greenfield 85). During the 1960s and 1970s large stabile, like the Black Beast, was installed throughout the world. The cities included New York, Kansas City, Albany, Amsterdam, Berlin, Paris and a lot more (Greenfield 100-101). Not only did he decorate cities, he also helped design monumental pieces. For example, the Lincoln Center in New York City, Gardens of UNESCO in Paris and Expo ’67

Fung 6 at Montreal. In the 1970s, at his highlight of fame, Braniff Airlines commissioned him to paint some of the jets with his bold design (Byers 218). Alex’s position in the world was set in 1937 when he received a major commission for the International Exposition of Art and Technology in Modern Life, which was in Paris (Greenfield 74). Alex is famous not only for his Mobiles, but also the large stabiles, since they are seen by everyday people who never visit the museum (Greenfield 82-83). Alex Calder died on November 11, 1976. He died of a heart attack at home with his daughter (Greenfield 112). After his death, a dinner was held at New York City at Whitney Museum of American Art to honor Alex Calder, the most beloved of all American Sculptor (Greenfield 5). Alexander Calder is and will be an American Artist who we will never forget. It all started with his imagination at home, then to mobiles and finally to his main fame, Stabiles. Since his art is scattered all through the world and are seen everyday by ordinary people, his work will always continue to change people’s lives for many generations to come. “Though the dancer is gone, the dance remains”- Museum of Modern Art.

Fung 7 Work Cited Byers, Paula “ Alexander Calder” Detroit, MI: Gale Research, 1998. Cavaliere, Barbara “Calder Alexander” USA: Grolier Inc, 1998. Greenfield, Howard. The Essentials, Alexander Calder, New York, NY: The Wonderland Press, 2003. Gurney, George “Calder, Alexander.” Chicago: World Book Inc. 1999. Safra, Jacobs “Calder, Alexander” USA: Encyclopedia Britannica, 2003.