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  • Provenance

    Acquired directly from the artist, Connecticut, 1951
    Sotheby Parke Bernet, Inc., New York, Modern Paintings, Drawings and Sculpture, October 18, 1979, lot 135
    Rolly-Michaux Gallery, New York
    Acquired directly from the above by the present owner, 1981

  • Exhibited

    New York, Rolly-Michaux Gallery, Alexander Calder: Selected Works, February 3 - March 28, 1981

  • Catalogue Essay

    Presenting a unique assembly of both painted and sculptural elements, Composition with Blue Sphere demonstrates the way in which Alexander Calder’s distinguished style coheres with renewed vibrancy when employed across media. Calder’s celebrated sculptural practice has always resonated with the language of early abstract painting. His simplified, organic forms in saffron yellow, cobalt blue and vermilion red recall the early modernist aesthetics of Piet Mondrian. It comes as no surprise that Calder would himself turn to painting in order to cultivate his trademark style. When Calder began to paint in the early 1920s, he embarked on a two-dimensional practice that would continue to parallel the production of his famed “mobiles” and “stabiles” throughout his career. When he turned to canvas, he found himself able to translate the vocabulary of his large-scale sculptural practice to a far more intimate medium. Composition with Blue Sphere, with its enchanting size and graceful effect, demonstrates this refreshing immediacy.

    The piece captures a small constellation of biomorphic forms, rendered in Calder’s classically vivid palette. Irregular circles, triangles, and wavy flourishes, recalling the vocabulary of Joan Miró float freely in abstracted space. A luminous, marine blue sphere brilliantly punctuates the upper left corner of the composition, while a mustard orb anchors its opposite. There is no sense of spatial hierarchy in the work - the forms occupy a two-dimensional surface with a simultaneity that stimulates the subconscious mind. Each shape contributes to an overall balanced composition that appears remarkably intuitive, conceived at the whim of Calder’s paint brush. The added metal flourish that springs from the canvas contributes to this effect of creative impulse. It adds a quiet note of discord to the work, a surreal divergence from the harmony within the frame. As the spectator’s eye wanders between elements, the work takes on a lively dynamism.

    Calder’s focus on the sphere in the present lot comes from a longstanding preoccupation with elemental form, space and the cosmos:“The basis of everything for me is the universe. The simplest forms in the universe are the sphere and the circle…My whole theory about art is the disparity that exists between form, masses and movement.” (K Kuh, The Artist's Voice: Talks with Seventeen Artists, New York and Evanston, Illinois: Harper & Row, 1962) Composition with Blue Sphere, with its complex interrelated forms, is a study of this spatial interplay. By embellishing a striking oil painting with a playful reference to sculpture, the artist weds two principal trajectories of his practice. Composition with Blue Sphere is a distinctive conception by Alexander Calder, one of the most iconic sculptor-painters of the twentieth century.

  • Artist Biography

    Alexander Calder

    American • 1898 - 1976

    One of the most significant artists of the 20th century, Alexander Calder defied gravity and breathed life into sculpture with his innovative and enrapturing approach. Producing art over a fifty-year span, Calder created a body of work that is impressive both for its breadth and diversity as well as for its universal mastery of form and space. Calder is perhaps best known for his enchanting series of mobiles, kinetic sculptures that float gracefully in space, but he also created a series of monumental yet airy stabiles, massive abstract forms that are bound to the earth, and was a prolific draftsman, painter, printmaker, and creator of jewelry, ornament, and ephemera. Calder’s work on an intimate scale is as impressive as his monumental sculpture.

    Calder’s work is well represented in the world’s most prestigious arts institutions and he is universally regarded as one of the touchstones of the 20th century avant-garde; his work is routinely exhibited in single retrospectives across the globe, and Calder himself will receive his own institution in his native Philadelphia, which will be designed as a “sanctuary” by leading architectural firm Herzog & de Meuron.

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Composition with Blue Sphere

oil on canvas and wire, in artist's frame
7 1/2 x 3 1/2 x 3/4 in. (19.1 x 8.9 x 1.9 cm)
Initialed "AC" lower right.
This work is registered in the archives of the Calder Foundation, New York, under application number A26726.

$100,000 - 150,000 

Sold for $185,000

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New York Auction 14 November 2014 11am