Flight from Tyranny: For Amnesty International, 1975 by Alexander Calder
Hand-signed, limited edition offset lithograph in colours on wove paper, H/C signed in pencil, and numbered 4/XXII
This lithograph was limited to 100 signed and numbered copies as well as 22 signed and numbered in the H/C (Hors Commerce) edition. (There was also an unsigned general print run). Hors Commerce edition prints are usually only available directly from the artist. A Hors Commerce edition is given as a gift to the Artist. Of all the special prints of an image, the HC edition prints are the most valuable, because of their rarity.
Alexander Calder (1898 – 1976) Alexander Calder was born in 1898, the second child of artist parents, his father was a sculptor and his mother a painter. (His grandfather was Alexander Milne Calder.)
Despite showing artistic talents at an early age, Calder did not originally set out to become an artist. He instead enrolled at the Stevens Institute of Technology after high school and graduated in 1919 with an engineering degree. Having worked for several years after graduation at various jobs, Calder committed to becoming an artist and in 1923 he enrolled at the Art Students League, New York to launch his career as an artist.
Calder soon began to sculpt from wire many portraits of his friends and public figures of the day. Word travelled about the inventive artist, and in 1928 Calder was given his first solo gallery show at the Weyhe Gallery in New York. This exhibition was soon followed by others in New York, Paris, and Berlin.
He married Louisa James (a grandniece of writer Henry James) in January 1931. He also became friendly with many prominent artists and
intellectuals of the early twentieth century at this time in Paris, including Joan Miró, Fernand Léger, James Johnson Sweeney, and Marcel Duchamp.
In October of 1930, Calder visited the studio of Piet Mondrian in Paris and was deeply impressed by a wall of coloured cardboard rectangles that Mondrian continually repositioned for compositional experiments. For two weeks following this visit, he created solely abstract paintings, only to discover that he did indeed prefer sculpture to painting. Soon after, he was invited to join Abstraction-Création, an influential group of
artists, including Jean Arp, Mondrian, and Jean Hélion with whom he had become friendly.
In 1931, Calder created first truly kinetic sculpture and gave form to an entirely new type of art. Many of these early objects moved by motors and were dubbed “mobiles” by Marcel Duchamp. Calder soon abandoned the mechanical aspects of these works when he realized he could fashion mobiles that would undulate on their own with the air’s currents. Arp, in order to differentiate Calder’s non-kinetic works from his kinetic works,
named Calder’s stationary objects “stabiles”.
In 1933, Calder and Louisa left France and returned to the United States, where they purchased an old farmhouse in Roxbury, Connecticut. Calder converted an icehouse attached to the main house into a studio. Because metal was in short supply duringthe war years, Calder turned increasingly to wood as a sculptural medium. Working in wood resulted in yet another original form of sculpture, works called “Constellations” by Sweeney and Duchamp. With their carved wood elements anchored by wire, the Constellations were so-called because they suggested the cosmos, though Calder did not intend that they represent anything in particular.
His first American gallery, The Pierre Matisse Gallery held an exhibition of these works in the spring of 1943, Calder’s last solo show at that gallery. His association with Matisse ended shortly thereafter, and he took up with the Buchholz Gallery/Curt Valentin as his New York representation.
The forties and fifties were a remarkably productive period for Calder, which was launched in 1938 with the first retrospective of his work at the George Walter Vincent Smith Gallery in Springfield, Massachusetts. A second, major retrospective was exhibited at the Museum of Modern Art in New York just a few years later, in 1943. In keeping with his economy, Calder made a series of small-scale works in 1945 primarily from
scraps of metal trimmed while making larger pieces.
In 1949, Calder constructed his largest mobile to date, International Mobile, for the Philadelphia Museum of Art’s Third International Exhibition of Sculpture. Galerie Maeght in Paris also held a Calder show in 1950 and subsequently became Calder’s exclusive Parisian dealer. His
association with Galerie Maeght lasted twenty-six years, until his death in 1976. After his New York dealer Curt Valentin died unexpectedly in
1954, Calder selected Perls Galleries in New York as his new American dealer, and this alliance also lasted until the end of his life.
Calder’s artistic talents were renowned worldwide by the 1960s by the range and breadth of his various projects and commissions.
Reflecting the tenets of Futurism, Constructivism and early non-objective painting, Alexander Calder changed the course of modern art with his three-dimensional kinetic sculptures, ‘the mobiles’, which Calder’s consist of boldly coloured abstract shapes, which are made from industrial materials and hang in lyrical balance.
Calder is best known for these visually fascinating and emotionally engaging, along with his monumental outdoor bolted sheet metal stabiles, which only imply movement and is one of the most-recognizable and beloved modern artists.
He also made a smaller number of sculptures in the more-traditional materials of wood and bronze and did paintings, mostly in gouache as well as drawings, including illustrations for books, and prints, and was also an inventive designer of jewellery.
Calder was an international phenomenon during his lifetime. He won the grand prize for sculpture at the 1952 Venice Biennale, where he represented the United States. He earned the French Legion of Honour and the American Presidential Medal of Freedom, among other honours.
Calder has been the subject of solo exhibitions at the Museum of Modern Art, the Rijksmuseum, the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art and the Museo Reine Sofia.
His work regularly sells for eight figures on the secondary market.
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