Alexander Calder’s Circus

Alexander Calder is an artist best known for his amazing mobiles.  But one of his lesser known, but equally incredible creations is the Cirque Calder – a miniature circus of wire figures and creatures created by the artist in Paris between 1926 and 1931.  Calder’s fascination with the circus began in 1925 when he spent two weeks sketching at the Ringling Brothers and Barnum and Bailey Circus.  A year later he began to make the first characters of Cirque Calder, giving miniature performances for friends all over Paris.  Everyone was so impressed and amused by the circus, and Calder had so much fun making it himself, that he continued to work on the project for five more years.

At its height, the Cirque Calder consisted of dozens of wire-frame acrobats, trapeze artists, exotic dancers, a knife-thrower, sword-swallower and performing animals which were rigged with thread, pulleys, cranks and springs to tumble, gallop, lift, gyrate and even catch each other in mid-air!  Calder spent most of the 1920’s and 1930’s travelling between North America and Europe putting on shows with his “circus in a suitcase.”

Made of wood, bronze, cork, fabric scraps, beads, and bits of jewellery, each figure and animal in the performance has its own personality. Each performer is the perfect mix of toy and sculpture.  Some of the most incredible figures include the weightlifter, who can bend, pick up a set of weights, straighten up and put the weights down; the trapeze artists who can swing and catch each other in mid-air with precision; the ambulence unit who are able to walk when pulled by a thread; and the horses pulling chariots that mimic galloping while their charioteers bend back and forth in the act of whipping them.

Cirque Calder is on display at the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York where it is on extended loan.

Whitney Museum of American Art

945 Madison Ave. at 75th St.
New York, NY 10021
(212) 570-3600


19 thoughts on “Alexander Calder’s Circus

  1. Were doing this project kinda like it in Art 1 At North Gaston High School In Dallas north Carolina. This man is very cool!

  2. I am truly glad to read this blog posts which includes tons of helpful information, thanks for providing such statistics.

  3. In a future post, I would love to talk about some of the reasoning
    behind our choices. Tremendous reasoning here. I always benefit
    from going through your blog. I truly have learned a Great deal from them.

  4. I was more than happy to uncover this site. I want to to thank you for your time for this particularly wonderful
    read!! I definitely really liked every bit
    of it and i also have you book marked to check out new things
    in your blog.

  5. I must thank you for the efforts you’ve put in penning this website. I’m hoping
    to see the same high-grade content from you later on as well.

    In fact, your creative writing abilities has encouraged me to get my very own blog now 😉

    • Thanks so much for your kind words! This blog was a really great project for me, and I hope to re-visit it again one day to add more content. I look forward to seeing what you come up with : )

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s