Alexander Calder was born on July 22, 1898 in Lawnton, Pennsylvania. He had an artistic upbringing, as his father and grandfather were sculptures as well. Both of his parents went to Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine arts. Despite Calder’s artistic upbringing, he didn’t go immediately to art. He first studied mechanical engineering at Seven’s Institute of Technology in Hoboken, where he got a bachelors degree in 1919. However, his engineering life wasn’t going very well, so in 1923 he enrolled at the Art Students League in New York City. It was there where he found his greatest inspiration, John Sloan. Calder constructed paintings based on Sloan’s. In 1924 he became a freelance artist for the National Police Gazette. Then, in 1926 he published his first illustrated book, Animal Sketching.
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In 1930 he went to Paris, where he attended Académie de la Grande Chaumière. There he discovered the art of Mondrian and Miró. He started experimenting with abstract form. In 1931 he exhibited his first brightly colored constellations, called mobiles, consisting of painted cutout shapes connected by wires and set in motion by wind currents. One of these mobiles was called “Universes.” Because of all his works with wire, he started making wire sculptors.
He also married Louisa James in this year, who was the grandniece of author Henry James. Together, they (Louisa and Alexander) had two children. With his new family, he moved to Roxbury, Connecticut. After that, he spent more time in America then in Europe. He started designing costumes and sets for ballets. In 1937 he constructed “Whale” which was his first stabile. He also constructed a mercury fountain for the Spanish Pavilion of the Paris Exposition. He called this piece an aquatic ballet. He continued making water stabiles throughout the rest of his life.
Many of his later works are huge, heavy, and delicately balanced mobiles produced for public buildings throughout the world. Calder is also noted for his book illustrations and stage sets. He had studios in Roxbury, Connecticut, and Paris. He died the 11th of November, 1976 at the age of 79.
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