Alexander “Sandy” Calder (July 22, 1898-Nov. 11, 1976) was an artistic pioneer who created the art form called the mobile. Calder was born into a family of artists in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA, and he began creating pieces at a very early age. Calder’s mother was a painter; his father and grandfather were sculptors. After getting a degree in mechanical engineering (from the Stevens Institute of Technology in 1919), he went to art school at the Art Students League in New York (from 1923 until 1926). Calder supported himself through school by working as an illustrator.
After having his first one-man show in New York in 1926, Calder traveled to Paris, France, which was then the art capital of the world. In Paris, he began creating small three-dimensional sculptures of circus figures made from wire, wood, and cloth; over the next few years, his works became more and more abstract. Eventually, he designed sculptures with painted elements that moved mechanically, and then went on to produce pieces that moved with the air. He called these free-moving, hanging sculptures “mobiles.” He also designed “stabiles,” sculptures that stood on the ground upon which a mobile balanced.
By the early 1970s, Calder’s mobiles were famous world-wide. His sculptures ranged in size from the monumental to jewelry-sized.