Alexander Calder was one of America’s most influential sculptors. He is known for his vibrant and playful public works as well as many moving sculptures which enquire into the nature of chance. Calder was born into an artistic family in Pennsylvania in 1898. He studied mechanical engineering at the Stevens Institute of Technology in 1915. He subsequently worked as a draughtsman for the Edison Company, and a hydraulic engineer.
It was in 1930s Paris where his artistic output first won widespread attention. New York’s Museum of Modern Art soon developed an interest in Calder’s work, and awarded him a retrospective in 1943. This was followed by important solo exhibitions at the Solomon R. Guggenheim museum in 1964, and Chicago’s Museum of Contemporary Art in 1974.
His large-scale public works include ‘.125’ at New York’s JFK airport, and ‘Spirale’ at the UNESCO building in Paris. His creative practice ranged beyond sculpture, and included painting, illustration, printmaking, set design, tapestries, and jewellery.
In 1976, as a protest against the Vietnam war, Calder refused to receive the Presidential Medal of Freedom offered to him by President Gerald Ford. It was awarded to him after he died the following year. In 1998, the US Postal Service recognised Calder’s contribution to American culture with a set of commemorative 32-cent stamps.