Alexander Calder was born in Philadelphia in 1898. He studied engineering from 1915 to 1919 at the Stevens Institute of Technology in Hoboken, New Jersey. He took drawing courses with Clinton Balmer in New York in 1922, and studied at the Art Students League from 1923-25. Calder worked for the magazine "National Police Gazette" as of 1924. For two weeks in 1925, he attended the daily show of a travelling circus in New York.
In 1926 Alexander Calder moved to Paris where he studied at the Académie de la Grande Chaumière. This is where he made his first small figure of wire, wood and cloth. In spring of 1927 he decided to set up a complete miniature circus with these figures, and performs shows that are visited by many Parisian artists.
His miniature wire figures were on exhibition in the New Yorker Weyhe Gallery in 1928.
His first one-man show took place at the Paris Galerie Billiet-Pierre Vorms in 1929.
In 1930 Alexander Calder joined the artists group "Abstraction-Création". He increasingly dealt with abstractions. A visit to the Paris observatory was a major inspiration for his first mobile and abstract wire sculptures, for which Marcel Duchamp came up with the term "Mobile".
Alexander Calder exhibited these "Mobiles" in the Galerie Vignon in Paris in 1932 for the first time. In these "Mobiles" Calder found his very own and most appropriate form of art. The perfectly balanced constructions, moved by a touch of air, are made of metal elements, wires, threads and sticks, they became more complex and abstract over the years, however, their impression is always one of great poetry and playful airiness. In the beginning he also made constructions that were moved by a small motor, but Calder did not pursue this type of "Mobile". As counterparts to the "Mobiles", Alexander Calder also made immobile, tectonically heavy, partly monumental constructions of sheet metal, for which Jean Arp invented the term "Stabile".
In 1933 Alexander Calder bought a farm house in Roxbury (Connecticut) and returned to the USA with his wife Louisa James. In 1934 he created the first open air mobile that he called "Steel Fish" which is 3,5 meters tall. Besides sculptures, his oeuvre also comprised graphic art and gouaches. Additionally, he made jewellery, stage designs and book illustrations.
Alexander Calder died in New York in 1976.