Alexander Calder mobiles are an art form that may be a little unusual to the casual art lover.  When the term mobile is used, most of us probably think about the typical nursery mobile that hangs over a baby’s crib.  However, the term “mobile” was first coined in the 1930’s as an art term.

Life of Alexander Calder

Alexander was born on July 22, 1898.  His father and his grandfather were both well known sculptors, and his mother was a painter.  When he was eleven, he gave his parents a kinetic art duck.  It rocked when you gently tapped it.  During his childhood, the family moved frequently, as his father accepted various positions employing his sculpting talents.  The young Alexander was always given a workshop of his own to pursue his interests. 

Alexander Calder MobilesCredit:

Calder attended college after high school, and worked as an engineer and other various jobs at first.  He ended up in a logging camp in Washington, and the scenery inspired him to start painting.  Shortly afterwards, he moved to New York to pursue a career in art. 

He moved to Paris in 1926, and later in 1929 had a solo show of his wire sculptures.  Calder was also designing toys of wire and other materials at this time.  The toys employed kinetic energy as power sources for movement and their allure.


However, Alexander Calder worked in many mediums throughout his career.  Besides the mobiles,  done in several different materials, he also did more traditional sculptures, some over 75 feet tall.  One piece was for the 1968 Olympics in Mexico City and another for Canada’s 1967 Exposition de Montreal.  Some of his large sculptures also employed movement, although the two listed here did not.

Calder was also known for the jewelry he made, as well as pen and ink drawings and his printmaking.  He had a long and varied career.

Kinetic Art

Kinetic art is a form of sculptural art that employs movement as part of its lure.  Some kinetic art uses motors and cranks to impart motion of the pieces.  In 1931, a fellow artist named Marcel Duchamp coined the term “mobile” to apply to this type of art.  When he used the term, he was referring to all of Calder’s works, including the powered pieces, but the term has since come to be applied to the free moving pieces.  Although Calder made many different styles of sculpture, he specialized in mobiles, especially late in his career.

The mobile is a piece of art where the pieces of the art work hang from strings.  Each piece hangs from a single string, and as a whole it is balanced.  Motion is imparted in some manner, most often just wind, and the art rotates or bounces around the strings.  With the addition of movement, the work is called kinetic art, where the art uses the principle of equilibrium. This means that when part of the structure is moved, it will try to return to a point of equilibrium.  This imparts movement to every part of the art as it regains its balance, or equilibrium.

Alexander Calder Mobiles(72671)Credit:

Calder’s Legacy

Even though Calder was developing a reputation relatively early, some of his early pieces still sold for very little.  However, in 2010, two Alexander Calder Mobiles sold for $3.7 and 6.35 million in auctions.

The Calder Foundation, founded in 1987 by his family, was formed to help promote the history and preservation of his art.


It is amazing to think that a common item such as the baby mobile started in formal way, but has developed to something that all of us can enjoy.  Alexander Calder and Alexander Calder mobiles helped to change the way that many thought about art.