Alexander Calder (1898-1976)
Property from a Private American Collection 
Alexander Calder (1898-1976)

Bourges [maquette]

Alexander Calder (1898-1976)
Bourges [maquette]
hanging mobile--painted sheet metal and wire
37 x 62 x 26 in. (94 x 157.5 x 66 cm.)
Executed in 1968.
Gift of the artist
Private collection, Saint Avertin, 1968
Waddington Galleries, London
Perls Galleries, New York, 1986
Quintana Fine Art, New York
The Pace Gallery, New York
Acquired from the above by the present owner, 1989

Lot Essay

This work is registered in the archives of the Calder Foundation, New York, under application number A07715.

"Symmetry and 'order' do not make a composition. It is the apparent accident to regularity, which the artist controls, and with which he makes or mars a work" - (Alexander Calder, 1943)

Executed in 1968, Alexander Calder's Bourges maquette is rare example of a hanging mobile completed during the final years of the artist's life. During these years Calder concentrated on producing large outdoor sculptures, but he continued to make a select number of his signature mobiles for a group of important clients. This work is a maquette for a larger work, Bourges, which currently hangs in a distinguished private collection.

The intimate nature of the present lots returns to the graceful origins of Calder's art. He revolutionized the nature of sculpture by introducing movement and color to the previously static medium. Bourges maquette encompasses both of these important features with its delicate arms of flaming red elements that sweep gracefully through the air when touched by the merest breath of wind. Calder's use of irregular, biomorphic forms recalls the work of Miró but it is the concepts and art of Mondrian that made the most impact on him. Calder visited Mondrian's studio in 1930 and described how the experience transformed his understanding of abstract art; "This one visit gave me a shock that started things. Though I had often heard the word 'modern' before, I did not consciously know or feel the term 'abstract.' So now at thirty-two, I wanted to paint and work in the abstract" (A Calder, An Autobiography in Pictures, New York, 1966, p.113).

The abstract nature of Bourges maquette masks the complexity of its construction. With the skills he gained from his training as an engineer, Calder assembles four cascades of perfectly balanced elements which not only work as a collection of independent units, each moving autonomously, but also combine to produce a graceful arc of red elements which sweep like a protective arm through the air. This sense of movement marks out this work as a particularly fine example of Calder's ability to endow his works with graceful motion. At almost a meter across, this work also retains many of the qualities of Calder's later monumental work. The sense of scale and use of solid color are all characteristic of the artist's late works. Calder did not distinguish between his monuments and mobiles, saying that each was a physical manifestation of his belief in the enduring power of art, "People think monuments should come out of the ground, never out of the ceiling, but mobiles can be monuments too" (A. Calder quoted in M. Prather, Alexander Calder 1898-1976, Washington, 1998, p.285).

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