Hall of Achievement
Across many mediums, styles and eras, Alexander Calder enriched humanity with his ingenious, elaborate and enduring works of art.
Born into a family of prominent artists, Mr. Calder created art throughout his childhood. Although he turned to the more practical subject of mechanical engineering as a young man, his creative impulses steered him back to his heritage. He used his intuitive engineering skills, reinforced by the technical acumen he honed at Stevens, to forge new modes of artistic expression.
Most famously, Mr. Calder invented the mobile, a suspended kinetic sculpture made of abstract forms in space that moves in response to touch or air currents. In the decades after Mr. Calder began making mobiles in the 1930s, the form has become ubiquitous, inspiring generations of artists and regaling legions under its iconic and even monumental silhouettes, such as the 76-foot-long Untitled in the National Gallery of Art.
Mr. Calder also created dozens of monumental sculptures that grace public spaces in New York, Philadelphia, Chicago, Los Angeles, Montreal, Mexico City, Paris, Berlin, Caracas, Tel Aviv and elsewhere around the globe. His La Grande vitesse, still standing in Grand Rapids, Michigan, was the first public artwork to be funded by the National Endowment for the Arts. In addition, Mr. Calder illustrated numerous books and posters; crafted thousands of pieces of jewelry, toys and household objects; and even painted entire airplanes in bursts of vibrant colors.
Mr. Calder was a central figure in the famed 1920s Parisian art scene, becoming the first truly international artist of his time. He came to know and be known amongst the avant-garde in part through his beloved live-action Cirque Calder, where he meticulously recreated the theatrics of a real circus and even actual circus stars in intricately constructed miniature figures. His lifelong friends included other brilliant artists such as Marcel Duchamp, Fernand Léger and Joan Miró, as well as leading intellectuals such as Jean-Paul Sartre.
In 1977, President Ford posthumously awarded Mr. Calder the Medal of Freedom. In 1983, the United States Mint issued a half-ounce gold medallion honoring him, and the United States Postal Service issued a Calder stamp in 1998.
As a Stevens student, Mr. Calder, or Sandy, as he was known on campus, was a brother in Delta Tau Delta; played football, lacrosse and basketball; and served on the Honor Board and Senior Ball Committee. He received the 1957 Stevens Honor Award.
Mr. Calder died in New York in 1976. The Calder Foundation, founded in 1987 and still led by his grandson and namesake, Alexander S. C. Rower, is dedicated to preserving Mr. Calder’s legacy and furthering Calder scholarship, in addition to supporting rising artists through its biannual Calder Prize and the Atelier Calder residency program in Saché, France. Mr. Calder’s works continue to be must-see stops in the collections of the Guggenheim, the Whitney, the Museum of Modern Art and thousands of other museums in the United States and worldwide.