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Alexander Calder


Alexander Calder, Calder’s Circus, 1926–31. Wire, wood, metal, cloth, yarn, paper, cardboard, leather, string, rubber tubing, corks, buttons, rhinestones, pipe cleaners, and bottle caps, 54 × 94 1/4 × 94 1/4 in. (137.2 × 239.4 × 239.4 cm) overall, dimensions variable. Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; purchase with funds from a public fundraising campaign in May 1982. One half the funds were contributed by the Robert Wood Johnson Jr. Charitable Trust. Additional major donations were given by The Lauder Foundation, the Robert Lehman Foundation Inc., the Howard and Jean Lipman Foundation Inc., an anonymous donor, The T. M. Evans Foundation Inc., MacAndrews & Forbes Group Incorporated, the DeWitt Wallace Fund Inc., Martin and Agneta Gruss, Anne Phillips, Mr. and Mrs. Laurance S. Rockefeller, the Simon Foundation Inc., Marylou Whitney, Bankers Trust Company, Mr. and Mrs. Kenneth N. Dayton, Joel and Anne Ehrenkranz, Irvin and Kenneth Feld, Flora Whitney Miller. More than 500 individuals from 26 states and abroad also contributed to the campaign  83.36.1-95  On view in the museum  On view in the museum
© 2009 Calder Foundation, New York / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York; photograph © Whitney Museum of American Art.
Alexander Calder was one of the most inventive sculptors of the twentieth century. Before he became an artist, Calder studied mechanical engineering. He was fascinated by how machines work and the way that things move. He used his engineering skills to incorporate movement into his sculpture. Calder made art that is figurative, like Calder’s Circus, (1926-31), but he is also well known for his abstract sculptures and mobiles.
About the artist
Alexander Calder was born in Pennsylvania in 1898 into a family of artists. His mother was a painter and his father and his grandfather were well-known sculptors. They encouraged Calder to express himself as an artist as well. As a child, he was given a workshop space of his own where he could make drawings, toys, and gifts.
“I think best in wire”
Alexander Calder, Varèse, c. 1930  80.25  On view in the museum  On view in the museum

“My fingers always seem busier than my mind.”

—Alexander Calder

Did Alexander Calder go to the circus?
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“I want to make things that are fun to look at.”

—Alexander Calder

Alexander Calder, Juggler with Dog, 1931  81.23.2
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