This work is registered in the archives of the Calder Foundation, New York, under application number A08116.
"With the twentieth century a desire for simplicity of form and of expression began to reappear. In sculpture the most direct route to both these ends lay through a re-establishment of the discipline of materials. The peculiarities of a raw material--the grain of wood, the texture and hardness of a stone, the surface qualities of metal--if respected, would exert a tonic restraint on the sculptor and his forms" (J. J. Sweeney, Alexander Calder, New York, 1951, p. 8).
Red Pennant exemplifies Calder's masterful handling of raw materials to create new forms and patterns of volume. During the Second World War, many of the artist's preferred materials, such as sheet metal, were in short supply. As a result, Calder began to use natural materials and found objects, a practice that he continued after the end of the war. The use of rocks, such as those in the present work, posed new and compelling questions of engineering and composition for the artist. In Red Pennant, the raw form and texture of the stone provides a striking visual opposition to the bright primary colors and smooth surfaces of Calder's hand-formed base and elements. The work's title draws attention to the cheerful red flag at the uppermost point of the work, rather than to the rocks, which anchor and balance the elements. The weight of the rocks is seemingly negated by the delicate wires that contain them, as if the artist is challenging the forces of gravity upon which his work depends.
Calder's work during this period is closely linked to his friendship with Jóan Miro. The two artists shared an interest in the rhythms of spontaneity, fantasy, and of course, a robust sense of humor. The animated dynamics between the forms and lines of the present work exhibit an affinity with the fantastic molecular forms in Miro's Constellation paintings which Calder first saw after the war.
Jean-Paul Sartre, the renowned French existentialist writer, befriended Calder and wrote an introductory essay to the catalogue that accompanied his exhibition in 1946 at the Galerie Louis Carré in Paris. In this essay, Sartre commented: "...In a word, although Calder has not sought to imitate anything--because he has not wanted to do anything but to create scales and chords of unknown movements--they are at once lyrical inventions, technical combinations almost mathematical and, at the same time, the sensible symbol of Nature--this great vague Nature, which throws pollen about lavishly and will produce brusquely the flight of a thousand butterfies, and of which one never knows if it is the blind chain of causes and effects or the timid development, ceaselessly delayed, thrown out of order, thwarted by an Idea" (J.-P. Sartre, quoted in Ibid, pp. 66-67).