This work is registered in the archives of the Calder Foundation, New York, under application number A17611.
Executed in 1947, Alexander Calder's Untitled (Composition) brims with energy. Spirals and squiggles shoot across the picture surface, zinging comet-like apparitions weaving their way between the various circles and other shapes, a constellation of Calderian forms. At the top, a red nebula stretches across much of the picture surface, an intense, vital backdrop applied in a highly gestural manner that appears to hint at the advances in Abstract Expressionism that were occurring during precisely this period. This picture is a playful and lyrical agglomeration of forms, and crucially is a whimsical cosmogony, a vision of the universe that echoes Calder's celebrated mobiles in its use of discs and a deliberately restrained palette. Indeed, here the forms of Calder's mobiles appear to have been set free within their two-dimensional white domain, flying across the picture surface with poetic abandon.
From the late 1940s to the early 1950s, Calder created some of his greatest two-dimensional works, combining a vigorous painterly manner with his expressive sense of play. Untitled (Composition) dates from this fertile period, when Calder was experimenting increasingly with the artistic materials involved in picture-making, a process that would increase the following year when he began to experiment with etching.
In Untitled (Composition), the sense that this is an image of Calder's own personal universe is made all the more apt by events within his own life. During 1947, the year that this picture was made, the artist spent a great deal of time with one of his great friends and allies from his days in Paris before the Second World War, Joan Miró. Calder played host to Miró both in New York and in Connecticut, and the pair, who had always been friends and whose highly poetic works resonate with each other, exchanged several gifts during the course of that year. In Untitled (Composition), the various elements, which appear so vibrantly to course across the surface of the picture, recall the hieratic and highly personalised visual language of Miró's own pictures, so often based on association and memory. However, despite comprising crosses and swirls which appear to tap into an iconography unknown to the viewer, Untitled (Composition) demonstrates to what extent Calder's works feature a great openness: they invoke the cosmos. As he himself explained, 'I work from a large live model' (Calder, quoted in J. Lipman, Calder's Universe, London, 1977, p. 18). In this way, Calder's Untitled (Composition) attains true universality, capturing a sense of the motion of the planets and other objects in space as well as crucially condensing his own wide-eyed wonder and fascination.