Happy Birthday, Calder!

Have you ever wondered who invented those mobiles that hang from baby cribs? Alexander Calder is to thank for that, and you know what else? It’s his birthday today, too! He was born on this day in 1898. But who is Alexander Calder? Let us take a brief look into the life and times of the great Calder.

Born to two artists, it would be safe to assume that Calder would be pushed into the arts, too. However, both parents led him away from art thinking he could not make a living out of it. Instead, Calder grew interested in the field of engineering, but he did not give up on art all together. Calder found a hobby of creating figurines out of copper wire with a pair of pliers. After visiting a circus one day, he set out to create his own live action circus out of small, wire figures and other found objects. Through this, he learned that both art and engineering could be fused together to create something entirely new.

Example of Derriere miroir - Calder

An example from the Schmidt’s permanent collection, Alexander Calder’s print for “Derriere le Miroir” Magazine

By the early 1930s, Calder had created the world’s first movable sculpture, which became known as a “mobile” due to its suspended hanging parts. His training in engineering came in handy when counterbalancing the various parts to pivot with the air currents in a rhythmic way. Through his accomplishment, Calder achieved great success and was commissioned to create more throughout the world. To compliment his work, he invented the “stabile,” which was essentially a sculpture that did not have moving parts and remained stable.

Calder did not limit himself to just mobile and stabile sculptures. Throughout his life, he also created paintings, studied printmaking, created jewelry from wire, illustrated books, produced stage sets for plays, and even painted four airplanes. By the time of his death in 1976, it was estimated that Calder had completed more than 20,000 works in his 78 years. Alexander Calder has left behind a legacy that many artists look to for inspiration.

To learn more about Calder, visit the Calder Foundation.

Post by Schmidt student worker Ryan Kemp.


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