Alexander Calder

Born 1898, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Died 1976, New York, New York


1919   Graduates from the Stevens Institute of Technology with a mechanical engineering degree. 

1923   Enrolls in the Arts Students League in New York City and studies to be a painter under the guidance of Thomas Hart Benton, Kenneth Hayes Miller, George Luks, and John Sloan.  While a student, Calder produces line drawings for the National Police Gazette. 

1925   Publishes Animal Sketches, his first book, illustrated in brush and ink.  Previously, his focus was on oil paintings with city scenes.

Early 1926   Begins carving primitivist figures out of tropical woods, which he would continue using as a medium until 1930. 

1928   First exhibition in New York City.  Also exhibits in Paris and Berlin, helping him to gain international recognition. 

1931   Following a visit to Piet Mondrian’s studio, Calder begins working in an entirely abstract style and is a key member of the Abstraction-Création group.

1932   Exhibits his fist moving sculpture in an exhibition that was organized by Marcel Duchamp.  Duchamp coins the term “mobile,” in reference to Calder's work. 

May 1932   Calder’s fame rose because of the first U.S. exhibition of his mobiles.  They ranged in type, including motor-driven to wind-driven ones. 

June 1932   Returns to the United States and settles in Roxbury, Massachusetts.

1936   Moves to Paris, where he takes classes at the Academie de la Grande Chaumiere. He creates his first wire sculptures this year, as well as a miniature circus made entirely of wire.

1940s   Calder works become more large-scale outdoor sculptures, and are seen in every major city in the U.S. 

1950s   Begins his new series of mobiles: Towers and Gongs.  Towers consist of wall-mounted wire constructions and Gongs are mobiles that include sound.

 Mid 1960s-1976   Major retrospectives of his works take place at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York (1964); The Musée National d'Art Moderne, Paris (1965); the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago (1974), and the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York (1976).