Alexander Calder was born in Lawnton, Pennsylvania in 1898. He came from an artistic family: his mother was painted and both his father and grandfather were respected sculptors. He initially trained as an engineer but then studied art at the Art Students League in New York from 1923 to 1925. He moved to Paris in 1926 in search of contact with the avant-garde and befriended artists including Joan Miró, Jean Arp, Fernand Léger and Piet Mondrian who set him on the road to abstraction.
Initially Calder made sculptures from wood and metal wire. Around 1931 he made his first mobiles, with which his name has been associated ever since: flat plates of metal connected by wire that move in the air. A little later he developed stabiles: static constructions of interlocking metal plates. In the 1960s and 1970s Calder produced both stabiles and mobiles at a monumental scale. The majority of his works have biomorphic forms; some represent animals, whether real or imagined. Colour played a central role in Calders sculptures, which were painted in a limited palette of the primary colours combined with black and white.
Calder spent the rest of his life between France and America. He died from a heart attack in October 1976, shortly after the opening of his retrospective exhibition, Calders Universe, in the Whitney Museum in New York.