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Elephant and Trainer, from Calder’s Circus


Alexander Calder, Elephant and Trainer, from Calder’s Circus, 1926–31. Painted wood, cloth, rubber tubing, wire, fur, pipe cleaners, cork, and nails, 12 1/4 × 29 × 15 1/2 in. (31.1 × 73.7 × 39.4 cm). 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  83.36.13a-c
© 2009 Calder Foundation, New York / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York; photograph © Whitney Museum of American Art
The elephant’s head is made of denim and his body of blue felt. His mouth is painted on to the denim, outlined in red, and has pipe cleaner tusks on either side. His legs, painted wooden blocks, are jointed with nails to allow him to rear up on his hind legs. His trunk and tail are made of a single piece of rubber tubing. During Calder’s Circus performances, the elephant’s trunk was placed into a bucket of sawdust. When Alexander Calder blew through the tube that is the elephant’s tail, the trunk would blow the sawdust out of the bucket and all over the place!

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Elephant and Trainer

Excerpt from Le Grand Cirque Calder 1927 (1955). 16mm, color, sound (French); 45 min. Directed by Jean Painlevé with Geneviève Hamon, assistant; cinematography by Claude Beausoleil; sound direction by Freddy Baume. Le Grand Cirque Calder 1927 is in the archives of Les Documents Cinématographiques, Paris, under the directorship of Brigitte Berg.

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