31 July Prompt’s Inspired by Alexander Calder’s Circus

These prompts are inspired by the work of Alexander Calder and provided here to spark your imagination!

Enjoy them as we celebrate this month of July!

Alexander Calder (1898-1976), was an influential American sculptor best known for his innovative mobiles and stabiles, as well as his playful wire sculptures and colorful abstract paintings. Calder initially trained as a mechanical engineer at Stevens Institute of Technology in Hoboken, New Jersey, where he excelled in mathematics and physics. During his university studies, Calder also developed a keen interest in art and sculpture with a particular fascination for machinery and mechanical devices.

After graduating from Stevens Tech, Calder, moved to Paris where he began to create his famous wire sculptures which often depicted animals, circus performers, and other whimsical subjects. He also developed an interest in kinetic art, creating sculptures that moved with the aid of motors or air currents. These works, which Marcel Duchamp dubbed “mobiles,” became Calder’s most iconic contribution to modern art.

One of Calder’s lifelong interests was the circus, an interest that formed in his childhood from attending performances with his family. During these circus performances, young Calder was captivated by the many acrobats, animals, and clowns. While living in Paris in the mid-1920’s Calder created what would become one of his most famous and beloved artworks: the Calder Circus, a miniature version of a circus, which he constructed between 1926 and 1931. Each figure in this circus was meticulously crafted by hand and consisted of dozens of small-scale figures and props made from wire, wood, metal, cloth, and found objects. Among props and miniature staging, his handmade circus included acrobats, lion tamers, sword swallowers, and clowns, as well as animals like elephants and horses.

The figures in Calder’s Circus were designed to be manipulated by hand or mechanically powered, allowing them to perform various circus acts. Calder would often “perform” the circus himself for friends and audiences, bringing the miniature world to life through his playful manipulations and sound effects. These performances, which could last up to two hours, showcased Calder’s wit, creativity, and ability to blur the lines between art and entertainment.

The creation of Cirque Calder marked a significant moment in Calder’s career combining his interest in wire sculpture, kinetic art, and performance into a single, captivating project. The circus also reflected Calder’s unique artistic style, characterized by a sense of humor, whimsy, and ingenious use of materials. Calder stopped regular performances of his circus in the 1930s when his career as a sculptor took off.

If interested, Calder’s Circus may be seen at the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York City where Calder’s legacy lives on in the enduring charm and popularity of “Cirque Calder” and its notable impact on the world of modern art.

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SevenKangarooWagon
CircusStreet LightAccordion
RingmasterDachshundBirds
Tight RopeAcrobatCandy
HorseArtisticMechanical
TrickCigaretteLion
HumanWhistleSword
ClownPlayTrapeze
MagicElephantFlag
JugglingConfettiPuppet
Balance
YouTube player

“Le Cirque de Calder” directed by Carlos Vilardebo

We can’t wait to see your creations!

BOOKS

DOCUMENTARIES

  • “Calder” (1998) – Directed by Roger Sherman, this PBS “American Masters” documentary provides an in-depth look at Calder’s life and artistic development. It features interviews with Calder himself, as well as family members and art world figures. VIEW HERE
  • “Alexander Calder: Sculptor of Air” (2009) – This documentary, directed by François Levy-Kuentz, focuses on Calder’s artistic process and the way his sculptures interact with air and space. It includes rare archival footage of Calder at work.
  • “Calder’s Circus” (1961) – While not a traditional documentary, this short film by Carlos Vilardebó captures Calder performing his famous miniature circus sculpture. It provides a charming glimpse into Calder’s whimsical sensibility.
  • “Calder, Sculptor of Air” (2009) – Another documentary with this title, directed by Pedro Andrade, was produced in Brazil. It explores Calder’s influence on Brazilian art and includes footage of his 1960 visit to the country.
  • “Works of Calder” (1950) – A short film by Herbert Matter. This is one of the earliest documentaries on Calder showing the artist at work in his studio providing insight into his creative process. VIEW HERE

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Rosalina Ballerina (Designed by Jannie van Schuylenburg)

Elephant (Designed by Leyla Torres)

Horse (Designed by Stephen Weiss)


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