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Alexander Calder papers, 1926-1967

Alexander Calder papers, 1926-1967

Calder, Alexander, 1898-1976


Representative image for Alexander Calder papers, 1926-1967

The papers of Alexander Calder were digitized in 2005 by the Archives of American Art. The papers have been scanned in their entirety, and total 1,086 images.

Funding for the processing and digitization of this collection was provided by the Terra Foundation for American Art.

Collection Information

Size: 2.5 linear feet

Summary: The papers of abstract kinetic artist and sculptor Alexander Calder measure 2.5 linear feet and date from 1926 to 1967. Found within the papers are scattered biographical materials, correspondence, printed materials, photographs, scattered prints and sketches by Calder, and a scrapbook.

Biographical material contains a few of Calder's personal documents, including a passport and address lists, as well as writings. Correspondence is scattered and of a general nature, including letters about exhibitions and artwork, and postcards from friends, some of which are illustrated. Of particular interest are the numerous photographs of Calder, including many of Calder at work in his studios, with his family at their home in Touraine, France, exhibitions, and artwork. Among the photographs are several taken by photographer and artist Herbert Matter and a photograph of Pierre Matisse at Calder's home. The printed material contains exhibition invitations and catalogs, news clippings, and magazines, primarily about Calder's career. Also found is scattered artwork by Calder and others, and a scrapbook of news clippings.

Biographical/Historical Note

Alexander Calder (1898-1976) was a sculptor from Roxbury, Connecticut.


Donated 1963 by Alexander Calder. Microfilmed on reel D305, and digitized in 2006.

Related Materials


Funding for the processing and digitization of this collection was provided by the Terra Foundation for American Art.

A Finding Aid to the Alexander Calder Papers, 1926-1967, in the Archives of American Art
Biographical Note
Sculptor and kinetic artist Alexander Calder was born in 1898 in Lawnton, Pennsylvania. As the son of two artists, he was encouraged to sculpt and construct things in his own workshop at an early age. In 1919 he graduated from Stevens Institute of Technology with a degree in mechanical engineering, and after holding several jobs, he decided to take classes at the Art Students League in New York City. He began exhibiting his paintings, but also focused on drawing, illustration, and wood and wire sculpture. In 1926 Calder moved to Paris and began making toys for his performance piece, "Cirque Calder." He married Louisa James in 1931 and exhibited his mobiles for the first time the same year. He continued to spend his time between New York and Paris, and he and Louisa also bought a farm in Roxbury, Connecticut. They had two children, Sandra and Mary. Calder befriended many influential artists, including Joan Mirò, Fernand Léger, Marcel Duchamp, and Yves Tanguy, and joined the Abstraction-Création group in 1931. He exhibited and worked on commissions extensively throughout his career. As a very prolific artist, he had alliances with several galleries, including the Pierre Matisse Gallery in New York. Later in his career, Calder began focusing on large-scale outdoor sculptures. He died in 1976 at the age of 78.
The Alexander Calder papers are arranged into six series, according to type of material. The contents of each folder have been arranged chronologically.
Series 1: Biographical Material, 1928-1954, undated(Box 1; 8 folders)
Series 2: Correspondence, 1928-1962, undated (Box 1; 3 folders)
Series 3: Printed Material, 1927-1967, undated(Box 1-3; 1 linear foot)
Series 4: Photographs, 1927-1962, undated (Box 3-6; 0.6 linear feet)
Series 5: Artwork, 1930-1947, undated(Box 5-6; 1 folder)
Series 6: Scrapbook, 1926-1932 (Box 7; 1 item)
Donated 1963 by Alexander Calder. Microfilmed on reel D305, and digitized in 2006.
Processing Information
The collection received preliminary processing at some point after donation and the collection was microfilmed on reel D305. It was fully processed, arranged and described by Erin Corley and scanned in 2005, with funding provided by the Terra Foundation for American Art.

Additional Forms Available

The collection was digitized in 2005 and is available online via AAA's website.

Restrictions on Access

Use of original papers requires an appointment and is limited to the Archives' Washington, D.C., Research Center. Contact Reference Services for more information.

How to Cite This Collection

Alexander Calder papers, 1926-1967. Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.

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