(1898-1976) Alexander "Sandy" Calder was born in Philadelphia, the son of Alexander Sterling Calder and the grandson of Alexander Milne Calder, well-known sculptors of public monumental works. His mother, Nanette Lederer Calder, was a professional portrait painter.
Obviously he was nurtured in an environment of art, and from an early age, he was making figures from found objects. Because of the father's ill health and the necessity for a drier climate, the family moved to Oracle, Arizona in 1905 and five years later to Pasadena, California. When Sandy was a teenager, the family returned to Pennsylvania.
In 1926, encouraged by an engineer friend of his father to follow his talent, he went to Paris where he lived the next seven years and shortly after his arrival began doing wire sculpture. During this period, his mother gave him seventy-five dollars a month for living expenses. He also met many of the leading avant-garde artists of the day including Piet Mondrian, who influenced Calder's geometric, non-objective constructions that he began producing in 1931. His floor pieces, named "stabiles" by Jean Arp, were exhibited in a gallery exhibition organized by Marcel Duchamp, who coined the word "mobile" for the hanging, kinetic pieces. Soon Calder was creating many of these wind-driven works.
Calder's mobiles were first shown in the United States in 1932, and the next year he returned to America and purchased a home in Roxbury, Connecticut where he lived the remainder of his life and gained much attention from that time. His death in 1976 occurred coincidentally with a major retrospective of his work at the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York.
Excerpted from Matthew Baigell Dictionary of American Art