Moeller Fine Art

Alexander Calder Drawings

Alexander Calder Drawings

Alexander Calder

Alexander Calder (1898–1976) is known for his joyful mobiles, which he began making after a visit to Piet Mondrian’s (1872–1944) studio in 1930. This visit gave him what he called “the necessary shock” to begin working in an abstract mode. Inspired to put Mondrian’s colored rectangles into motion, Calder began to incorporate movement into abstract forms. On the occasion of the recently opened Calder exhibition at The Museum of Modern Art, New York, and in celebration of this fantastically inventive artist, I present a selection of his ink drawings from the early 1940s. These drawings represent the culmination of his first decade of mobile making.

Initially, Calder experimented with mounting panels onto motorized elements. Then, in a burst of creative energy, he made numerous motorized and non-motorized mobiles throughout the 1930s. These included boxlike frames containing both freely moving and motorized parts; wall-mounted panels with suspended elements; freestanding mobiles; and a variety of hanging mobiles.

Calder’s drawings of his mobiles were not studies. In fact, he didn’t tend to use studies and likely made most of the drawings in our selection after he completed his mobiles. Before exhibitions, he would create visual inventory lists of his work, and, as he explained: “When I wanted to talk about one of them, I’d have to draw it.”This offers insight into the origin of our drawings. The year Calder made them, he was involved in planning a career retrospective at MoMA, organized by James Johnson Sweeney (1900–1986). It’s easy to imagine him creating these drawings while in conversation with Sweeney as the two discussed how best to represent the narrative of his art. In 1943, Calder created a chart for Sweeney diagramming 48 of his works in roughly chronological order, 32 of which appeared in the retrospective.

Two of the mobiles represented in our drawings, The White Frame, 1934, and The Circle (Agnes' Ring), 1934, appear on the recto of Calder's chart and were included in the MoMA retrospective. His drawing of The White Frame accurately depicts the original mobile. There are discrepancies between The Circle (Agnes' Ring) mobile and his drawing, which shows the work with fewer hanging features, so we can say that the connection between them is very likely. Calder’s drawing of Un effet du japonais precisely represents the original 1941 sculpture, with its upward thrusting wire rods supported by a tree-like central stand. Our drawing featuring a tripodal stand with various shapes suspended from its bent upper part resembles the mobile Aluminum Leaves, Red Post, 1941, which Calder included on the verso of his chart.

In these years, Calder was also actively creating fantastic, futuristic jewelry, which featured many of the same shapes as his mobiles. One of our drawings features five forms—a spiral, dumbbell, yin-yang-like symbol, fishbone, and wriggling tadpole—recalling those he often used in his jewelry, particularly the spiral and fishbone. It seems this drawing might also be related to his work with Sweeney. It attests to Calder’s persistent engagement with a group of elemental forms that appeared in all mediums and scales he worked in—from delicate necklaces to large-scale public sculpture.

While their precise fit in Calder’s oeuvre remains open to interpretation, we can say that his drawings served him in discussions of his work and suggest his fondness for collaboration. The drawings capture the dynamism of his mobiles, which, for Calder, were “simply beautiful.”


Moeller Fine Art

Achim Moeller Ltd., founded in London in June 1972, moved to New York in October of 1984 as Moeller Fine Art Ltd. The gallery specializes in Nineteenth and Twentieth Century masterworks, and regularly organizes museum-quality exhibitions, including “From Daumier to Matisse: French Master Drawings from the John C. Whitehead Collection,” “Howard Wise: Exploring the New,” and “Between Friends: Giacomo Balla + Piero Dorazio,” “Lyonel Feininger + Mark Tobey.” Moeller Fine Art is the foremost gallery in the United States for works by German Expressionists and the Masters of the Bauhaus.

For nearly, fifty years, Achim Moeller, the gallery’s principal, has helped build important and substantial private and public collections that are coherent in concept, period, and quality. Moeller Fine Art also assists individuals and institutions with collection management, insurance valuation, tax and estate planning, and auction representation.

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Image Credit:

Alexander Calder (1898–1976) | Untitled, 1943 | Ink on paper 11 x 11 in. (27.9 x 27.9 cm) | Signed and dated lower right: Calder ‘43 | This work is registered in the archives of the Calder Foundation, New York under application number A26501.

Alexander Calder

Untitled

1943

11 x 11 in. (27.9 x 27.9 cm)

Ink on paper

Signed and dated lower right: Calder ‘43 | This work is registered in the archives of the Calder Foundation, New York under application number A26501.

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9 EvB- Artwork 9 (Gachet) (Portraits) -

Alexander Calder

(Drawing of the White Frame)

c. 1942

11 1/2 x 10 1/2 in. (29.2 x 26.7 cm)

Ink on paper

Inscribed lower center: Mobile | This work is registered in the archives of the Calder Foundation, New York under application number A26499.

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9 EvB- Artwork 9 (Gachet) (Portraits) -

Alexander Calder (1898–1976) | (Drawing of the White Frame), c. 1942 | Ink on paper | 11 1/2 x 10 1/2 in. (29.2 x 26.7 cm) | Inscribed lower center: Mobile | This work is registered in the archives of the Calder Foundation, New York under application number A26499.

Alexander Calder

(Drawing of The Circle)

c. 1943

11 x 9 in. (27.9 x 22.9 cm)

Ink on paper

Inscribed lower right: Mobile | Inscribed upper center: thread wire | This work is registered in the archives of the Calder Foundation, New York under application number A26500.

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9 EvB- Artwork 9 (Gachet) (Portraits) -

Alexander Calder

(Drawing of un effet du japonais)

c. 1943

11 1/2 x 10 1/2 in. (29.2 x 26.7 cm)

Ink on paper

Inscribed lower right: Mobile | This work is registered in the archives of the Calder Foundation, New York under application number A26497.

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9 EvB- Artwork 9 (Gachet) (Portraits) -

Alexander Calder (1898–1976) | (Drawing of The Circle), c. 1943 | Ink on paper | 11 x 9 in. (27.9 x 22.9 cm) | Inscribed lower right: Mobile Inscribed upper center: thread wire | This work is registered in the archives of the Calder Foundation, New York under application number A26500.

Alexander Calder

(Drawing of Mobile)

c. 1943

10 1/2 x 10 1/2 in. (26.7 x 26.7 cm)

Ink on paper

Inscribed lower right: Mobile | This work is registered in the archives of the Calder Foundation, New York under application number A26498.

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9 EvB- Artwork 9 (Gachet) (Portraits) -

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9 EvB- Artwork 9 (Gachet) (Portraits) -

Alexander Calder (1898–1976) | (Drawing of un effet du japonais), c. 1943 | Ink on paper | 11 1/2 x 10 1/2 in. (29.2 x 26.7 cm) | Inscribed lower right: Mobile | This work is registered in the archives of the Calder Foundation, New York under application number A26497

9 EvB- Artwork 9 (Gachet) (Portraits) -

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9 EvB- Artwork 9 (Gachet) (Portraits) -
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