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Artist Alexander Calder Moves to Connecticut

Alexander Calder at the Stegosaurus sculpture dedication, Hartford, October 10, 1973. photo: S. Robert Pugliese, Hartford Times. Hartford History Center, Hartford Public Library

By Bobby Shipman

In his lifetime Alexander Calder created more than 22,000 works of art! He also designed toys, stage sets, jewelry, and costumes. He created paintings, and sculptures from metal, wood, and wire. He loved to create!

One of his most famous sculptures, Stegosaurus, is made of steel. It sits outside the Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art in Hartford, Connecticut. Other museums in Connecticut own works by Calder, too.

Calder is best known for his mobiles. He invented the art form! Mobiles are sculptures that move.

Imagine that you’re in a baby’s room. There’s a crib. And there’s that thing hanging above it that spins around. It has little things hanging off it. It’s called a mobile.

Calder wasn’t thinking about babies or cribs. But he did show the world that mobiles were art. His are made of multicolored metal shapes. They are always perfectly balanced. They can weigh hundreds of pounds!

From Engineer to Artist

Alexander Calder was born on July 22, 1898, in Lawnton, Pennsylvania. His family was full of artists. His mother was a painter. His father and grandfather were both sculptors.

But Alexander wanted to be an engineer. He went to school to become an  engineer. After he worked for a while as an engineer, he changed his mind. He wanted to be an artist.

In 1923, he went to art school in New York City. He got a job as an artist for a magazine. They sent him to make drawings of the Ringling Brothers and Barnum and Bailey Circus. He discovered he loved the circus. The circus inspired many of his art works.

In 1926 he published his first book, Animal Sketching. That same year, he visited Paris, France. Paris was an exciting place. There were many artists like Pablo Picasso creating fantastic, new kinds of art. There were many writers writing in a new way. There were musicians and composers creating modern music. He met many artists and writers. Their work gave him new ideas about art.

In 1928 an art gallery showed his work for the first time. The gallery was in New York. Then he had shows in Paris and Berlin, Germany. While sailing back to the United States, he met Louisa James. They fell in love, and married in 1931. In 1931 Calder built his first mobile.

Postcard of Alexander Calder’s Stegosaurus. Mahoney Postcard Collection, Hartford History Center, Hartford Public Library

The Calders Move to Connecticut

In 1933 Alexander and Louisa Calder moved to an old farmhouse in Roxbury, Connecticut. Alexander made an old icehouse into an art studio. He started making sculpures for their garden. The sculptures got bigger and bigger. Soon museums were asking him to make sculptures for them.

Calder continued to make art up until he died in 1976. Lots of art! He had become famous. Many modern artists were inspired by his sculptures. A year after he died, he was honored with the Presidential Medal of Freedom. In the United States, that is the highest honor a person outside the military can get. It was fitting for a man, who, with his art, changed the world.


You can see more artwork by Alexander Calder and learn more about him at