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Thursday, January 7, 2010

Alexander Calder’s Cosmic Imagery

“An adventurous spirit in attacking the unfamiliar results in a vigorous art.”

—Alexander Calder, from Alexander Caldwell 1898-1976

MIR Gallery, an online division of MIR Appraisal Services, Inc. is proud to showcase a limited edition lithographic print on paper by Alexander Calder.

Alexander Calder, MIR Gallery

“The circular forms, particularly interesting, seem to me,” wrote Alexander Calder, “to have some kind of cosmic or universal feeling” (Marter 106).

Calder, a prolific painter, sculptor and printmaker, revolutionized sculptural mediums and design.

Born in Philadelphia in 1898 to a portrait painter and a sculptor, Calder crafted various objects from leather and tools at an early age. His training in both art (Art Students League in New York) and engineering, as well as his work as a manual laborer in such surprising jobs as serving as a fireman in the boiler room of a steamer, led him to approach the concepts of vision and design in novel ways. Besides art creation in the more narrowly defined genres of painting and sculpting, Calder also designed tapestries and textiles, theatrical décor, jewelry and toys.

Calder began as a painter, and later came to sculpture, creating stabiles, mobiles and standing mobiles. His unprecedented use of wire as a medium in sculpture granted him international acclaim (Prather 15).

Cosmic imagery is a major motif in Calder’s work. Indeed, Calder identified the planetary system as his first and primary inspiration—both in an imagined sense—

“You can have an idea what they’re [the stars] are like without knowing all about them and shaking hands with them”—and in the realm of the symbolic—he was fascinated by 18th century mechanical toys which were models of the planetary system (Marter 11, 109).

His work was in accord with artistic and scientific practice and belief of the day; Moholy-Nagy, Constructivist painter and member of the Bauhaus faculty, held that the artist should aim to create art which is in relationship to a vital process, rather than fixed, “static” forms, and contemporary scientists began to consider the universe as a “dynamic” entity (Marter 109).

Calder explained, “The underlying sense of form in my work has been the system of the Universe…” (Marter 111). One can intuit these cosmic concerns in the limited edition print now at MIR; one can imagine, in Calder’s words, “detached bodies floating in space, of different sizes and densities, perhaps of different colors and temperatures… surrounded and interlarded with wisps of gaseous condition, and some at rest, while others move in peculiar manners…” (Marter 111). It is also interesting to witness such inherent kineticism in this two-dimensional piece; one can sense Calder’s sculptural inclinations in the print.

Alexander Calder is a pioneer in the world of kinetic art; one can witness this most obviously in his mobiles, yet one can sense his use of implied movement acutely even in two dimensional works. His concern with space, form and the cosmos are universal themes in his work. We invite you to visit MIR Appraisal Services to view our limited edition Alexander Calder print. Please do call (312) 814-8510 or email

Written and researched by Jessica Savitz

MIR Appraisal Services, Inc.

Principal Appraiser & Director: Farhad Radfar, ISA, AM

307 N. Michigan Avenue, Suite 308

Chicago, IL 60601

Phone: (312) 814-8510

Works Cited:

Prather, Marla. Alexander Calder 1898-1976. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1998.

Gibson, Michael. Calder. New York: Universe Books, 1988.

Marter, John. Alexander Calder. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1991.

Morgan, Ann Lee. "Calder, Alexander" The Oxford Dictionary of American Art and Artists. Oxford University Press, 2007. Oxford Reference Online. Oxford University Press. University of Chicago. 3 January 2010.

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    Chicago, Illinois, United States
    Welcome to our blog site! MIR Appraisal Services, Inc. is a fine art and personal property appraisal company dedicated to serving clients throughout the United States and abroad since our incorporation in Chicago in 1994. We specialize in the multi-faceted field of appraising fine art, jewelry, antiques, and decorative items. We also provide professional fine art restoration and conservation treatment for various media, including but not limited to, artworks on canvas, board, masonite, and paper. We offer professional and precise appraisal services carried out by our team of accredited appraisers for the purposes of insurance coverage and claims, charitable donations, estate planning and probate, equitable distribution and fair-market value. We started our art commentary blog site as a venue for colleagues and fellow art enthusiasts to share their experiences within the art community.