Alexander Calder Lioness copy.jpg

Alexander Calder

Alexander Calder (22 July 1898 – 11 November 1976), also known as Sandy Calder, was an American sculptor and artist most famous for inventing the mobile. In addition to mobile and stabile sculpture, Alexander Calder also created paintings, lithographs, toys and tapestry and designed carpets.

Born in Lawnton, Pennsylvania, on July 22, 1898, Calder came from a family of artists. His father, Alexander Stirling Calder, was a well-known sculptor who created many public installations, a majority of them located in Philadelphia. Calder’s grandfather, sculptor Alexander Milne Calder, was born in Scotland and immigrated to Philadelphia in 1868. Calder’s mother, Nanette Lederer Calder, was a professional portrait painter who studied at the Académie Julian and the Sorbonne in Paris from around 1888 until 1893. She then moved to Philadelphia where she met Alexander Stirling Calder while studying at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts.Calder’s parents were married on 22 February 1895. His older sister, Margaret “Peggy” Calder, was born in 1896. Her married name was Margaret Calder Hayes, and she was instrumental in the development of the UC Berkeley Art Museum.

In 1902, at the age of four, Calder posed nude for his father’s sculpture The Man Cubthat is now located in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. In that same year, he completed his earliest sculpture, a clay elephant.

Three years later, when Calder was seven and his sister was nine, Stirling Calder contracted tuberculosis and Calder’s parents moved to a ranch in Oracle, Arizona, leaving the children in the care of family friends for a year. The children were reunited with their parents in late March, 1906 and stayed at the ranch in Arizona until fall of the same year.

After Arizona, the Calder family moved to Pasadena, California. The windowed cellar of the family home became Calder’s first studio and he received his first set of tools. He used scraps of copper wire that he found in the streets to make jewelry and beads for his sister’s dolls. On January 1, 1907, Calder’s mother took him to the Tournament of Roses and he observed a four-horse-chariot race. This style of event later became the finale of Calder’s wire circus shows.




Born July 22nd in Pennsylvania to a mother who is a painter, and a father who is a sculptor


Parents provide Calder with a workshop at age eleven where he begins to make brass animal sculptures


Graduates from Stevens Institute of Technology in Hoboken, New Jersey; works as engineer at logging camp in Washington state; Pacific Northwest mountain landscapes inspire his painting


Moves to New York City and attends Art Students League; studies under George Luks, Thomas Hart Benton, John Sloan, and Guy Pene du Bois; works as illustrator for newspapers and advertisers


Makes illustrations of the Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus for the National Police Gazette; employed at Central Park Zoo and Bronx Zoo; makes series of brush drawings of animals; constructs his first wire sculpture


Attends Académie de la Grande Chaumière in Paris


Meets Stanley William Hayter, exhibits at the Salon des Indépendants


Visit to Mondrian’s studio results in Calder adopting complete abstraction; returns to United States to marry Louisa James


Calders settle in Paris; Duchamp visits Calder’s studio and calls his moving sculptures “mobiles”; Calder meets Picasso


Spends summer in Paris, meets Salvador Dali; returns to the States and buys house in Roxbury, Connecticut; undertakes large renovation of house and adds adjoining studio


Constructs first outdoor sculpture; the first of several solo exhibitions at Pierre Matisse Gallery, New York


Makes first sculpture enlarged from a maquette; commissioned to create an installation for the Spanish Pavillion of the World’s Fair in Paris; summers in Varengeville, France; house guests include Joan Miro, Georges Braque, Ben Nicholson, and Barbara Hepworth


Commissioned to make mobile installed in main stairwell of Museum of Modern Art, New York


Constructs largest mobile to date, hung over main stairwell of the Philadelphia Museum of Art


Participates in Venice Biennale and awarded grand prize for sculpture


Receives several commissions for large-scale public sculpture, including a mobile for JFK Airport commissioned by Port Authority of New York and a stabile for UNESCO Paris headquarters


Sculpture commissions for Expo ’67 in Montreal and 1968 Olympic Games in Mexico City


Dies November 11th  

Selected Exhibitions 


Gouaches, Ricco Maresca Gallery, New York City, NY

Jewlery, Norton Museum of Art, West Palm Beach, FL


Focus: Alexander Calder, Museum of Modern Art, New York City, NY


The Surreal Calder, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, San Francisco, CA


Alexander Calder, Samuel Vanhoegaerden Gallery, Knokke-Heist, Beligum


Alexander Calder, Kukje Gallery, Seoul, Korea


Calder: Four Maquettes, Two Stabiles and a Little Bird Too, Ameringer Fine Arts, New York, NY


Retrospective, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, NY


Calder Gouache show at Perls Gallery, New York; retrospective at Guggenheim Museum, New York


Retrospective at Tate Gallery, London


Solo show with new dealer, Klaus Perls


Solo shows include: Galerie Maeght, Paris, and retrospective at Masachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge


Retrospective at Museum of Modern Art; solo show at the Addison Gallery of American Art, Andover, Massachusetts


Solo exhibition at Julien Levy Gallery, New York


Galerie Billiet gives Calder’s first solo show in Paris


First show of wire animals and caricature portraits held at Weyhe Gallery, New York


First painting exhibition at the Artist’s Gallery, New York