Alexander Calder (American, 1898-1976) American sculptor and painter who is famous
as the inventor of the mobile. Although he came from a family of artists, he did not study
art until his early 20s when he attended the Art Students League in New York. As a young
artist, Calder was adept at making rapid drawings which conveyed a sense of movement by a
single unbroken line. Taking these line drawings as his theme he produced sculptures of
unbroken stands of wire, which were like drawings in space. The most famous of these
sculptures is the miniature circus he developed and with which he gave performances in
the late 1920's.
Dividing his time between the US and Paris, Calder developed a lifelong friendship with
Joan Miro. In 1931 he created his first abstract moving constructions, which were were
christened "Mobiles" by Marcel Duchamp and his non-moving constructions were
called "Stabiles" by Jean Arp. The mobiles were made of shaped pieces of
light-weight metal suspended on thin wires and were so light that they moved, reacting
to the faintest air currents. Calder described them as "four-dimensional drawings.
" In 1952 he won the first prize for sculpture at the Venice Biennial. His influence
on the kinetic art movement was great as he was one of the first to explore the idea of
motion in sculpture, especially random motion and the idea of chance changing the shape
Although most well known for his mobiles, Calder also created numerous lithographs and
gouaches and also made designs for rugs and tapestries. His numerous large outdoor
sculptures can be seen in public places throughout the world.