Alexander Stirling Calder

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Alexander Stirling Calder
WP Alexander Stirling Calder.jpg
A. Stirling Calder at work on the Star Maiden (1913). Audrey Munson was the model.
Born (1870-01-11)January 11, 1870
Died January 7, 1945(1945-01-07) (aged 74)
Nationality American
Education Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts
Known for Sculpture
Notable work(s) Washington as President
Swann Memorial Fountain
Leif Eriksson Memorial

Alexander Stirling Calder (January 11, 1870 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania – January 7, 1945) was an American sculptor and teacher. Son of the sculptor Alexander Milne Calder and father of the sculptor Alexander (Sandy) Calder, his best-known works are George Washington as President on the Washington Square Arch in New York City, the Swann Memorial Fountain in Philadelphia, and the Leif Eriksson Memorial in Reykjavík, Iceland.

Education and career[edit]

In 1885 at age 16, A. Stirling Calder attended the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts where he studied under Thomas Eakins. He apprenticed as a sculptor the following year, working on his father's extensive sculpture program for Philadelphia City Hall, and is reported to have modeled the arm of one of the figures. In 1890, he moved to Paris where he studied at the Académie Julian under Henri Michel Chapu, and then was accepted in the École nationale supérieure des Beaux-Arts where he entered the atelier of Alexandre Falguière.[1]

George Washington as President, Accompanied by Wisdom and Justice (1917-18), Washington Square Arch, New York. This is sometimes called Washington at Peace.

In 1892 he returned to Philadelphia and began his career as a sculptor in earnest. His first major commission, won in a national competition, was for a larger-than-life-size statue of Dr. Samuel Gross (1895–97) for the National Mall in Washington, D.C.. Calder replicated the pose of Dr. Gross from Eakins's 1876 painting The Gross Clinic. That was followed by a set of twelve larger-than-life-size statues of Presbyterian clergymen for the facade of the Witherspoon Building (1898–99) in Philadelphia.[2]

Throughout his career he was frequently a teacher, variously teaching sculpture or anatomy at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, the Pennsylvania Museum School of Industrial Art in Philadelphia, the National Academy of Design in NYC and the Art Students League of New York. In 1906, he was elected into the National Academy of Design as an Associate member, and became a full member in 1913.

He contracted tuberculosis in 1906, and moved to Arizona and then California, for his health. In Pasedena, he modeled architectural sculpture for the Throop Polytechnic Institute (now the California Institute of Technology). He returned to the east coast in 1910.[3]

In 1912, he was named acting-chief (under Karl Bitter) of the sculpture program for the Panama-Pacific Exposition, a World's Fair to open in San Francisco, California in February 1915. He obtained a studio in NYC and there employed the services of model Audrey Munson who posed for him – Star Maiden (1913–15) – and a host of other artists. For the Exposition, Calder completed three massive sculpture groups, The Nations of the East and The Nations of the West, which crowned triumphal arches, and a fountain group, The Fountain of Energy. Following Bitter's sudden death in April 1915, Calder completed the Depew Memorial Fountain (1915–19) in Indianapolis, Indiana.

Hermon Atkins MacNeil and Calder were commissioned to create larger-than-life-size sculptures for the Washington Square Arch in New York City. George Washington as Commander-in-Chief, Accompanied by Fame and Valor (1914–16) was sculpted by MacNeil; and George Washington as President, Accompanied by Wisdom and Justice (1917–18) by Calder.[4] These are sometimes referred to as Washington at War and Washington at Peace.

He sculpted a number of ornamental works for "Vizcaya", the James Deering estate outside Miami, Florida. These included the famous Italian Barge (1917–19), a stone folly in the shape of a boat, projecting into Biscayne Bay.

Two of his major commissions of the 1920s were the Swann Memorial Fountain (1920–24), and the architectural sculpture program for the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology (completed 1931), both in Philadelphia.

He was one of a dozen sculptors invited to compete in Oklahoma's Pioneer Woman statue competition in 1927,[5] which was won by Bryant Baker. That year he was also commissioned by the Berkshire Museum to sculpt the woodwork and fountain of the Museum's Ellen Crane Memorial Room in Pittsfield, Massachusetts. An institution that would also see his more famous son, Alexander, accept his first public commission in the 1930s with a pair of mobiles for the Museum's new theater.

In 1929, he won the national competition for a monumental statue of Leif Eriksson, to be given by the United States to Iceland in commemoration of the 1000th anniversary of the Icelandic Parliament. Standing before the Hallgrímskirkja, the Lutheran cathedral in Reykjavík, and facing west toward the Atlantic Ocean and Greenland, the Leif Eriksson Memorial (1929–32) has become as iconic for Icelanders as the Statue of Liberty is for Americans.

In 1945, Calder died of funnel chest syndrome, which he developed while working on his final sculpture, titled "Sicilian Nectar". He is buried in West Laurel Hill Cemetery in Bala Cynwyd, Pennsylvania. His memoir, Thoughts of A. Stirling Calder on Art and Life (1947), was published posthumously.

Selected works[edit]

Swann Memorial Fountain, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (1920-24), Wilson Eyre, architect. Calder called this Fountain of the Rivers.
The Nations of the West (1915), Panama-Pacific International Exposition, San Francisco, California. This massive sculpture group crowned the Arch of the Setting Sun. A second group, The Nations of the East (including a life-size elephant), crowned the Arch of the Rising Sun.

Architectural sculpture[edit]

University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Calder completed the architectural sculpture program in 1931.



  • Armstrong, Craven et al., 200 Years of American Sculpture, Whitney Museum of Art, NYC, 1976
  • Bach,Penny Balkin, Public Art in Philadelphia, Temple University Press, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, 1992
  • Calder, A. Sterling, Thoughts of A. Stirling Calder on Art and Life, Privately published, New York, 1947
  • Craven, Wayne, Sculpture in America, Thomas Y Crowell Co, New York 1968
  • Fairmount Park Art Association, Sculpture of a City: Philadelphia's Treasures in Bronze and Stone, Walker Publishing Co., Inc, New York. NY 1974
  • Falk, Peter Hastings, ed., Who was Who in American Art, Sound View Press, Madison Connecticut, 1985
  • Gadzinski, Cunningham, Panhorst et al., American Sculpture in the Museum of American Art of the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Museum of American Art of the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 1997
  • Hayes, Margaret Calder, Three Alexander Calders, Paul S Eriksson Publisher, Middlebury, Vermont, 1977
  • Hoeber, Arthur (September 1910). "Calder - A "Various" Sculptor: A Man Of Craftmanship And Brains". The World's Work: A History of Our Time XX: 13377–13388. Retrieved 2009-07-10. 
  • Kvaran and Lockley, A Guide to American Architectural Sculpture unpublished manuscript,
  • Opitz, Glenn B ed., Mantle Fielding's Dictionary of American Painters, Sculptors & Engravers, Apollo Book, Poughkeepsie NY, 1986
  • Proske, Beatrice Gilman, Brookgreen Gardens Sculpture, Brookgreen Gardens, South Carolina, 1968


  1. ^ Gadzinski, Cunningham, Panhorst et al., pp. 170-75.
  2. ^ Gadzinski, Cunningham, Panhorst et al., p. 170.
  3. ^ Gadzinski, Cunningham, Panhorst et al., p. 171.
  4. ^ Washington as President from museumplanet.
  5. ^ ‘’Exhibition of Models for a Monument to the Pioneer Woman’’ at the Chicago Architectural Exhibition, East Galleries, Art Institute of Chicago, June 25 to August 1, 1927
  6. ^ Man Cub from Metropolitan Museum of Art.
  7. ^ Sundial from Philadelphia Public Art.
  8. ^ Charles Henry Lea Memorial from Flickr.
  9. ^ An American Stoic from Amon-Carter Museum.
  10. ^ Spirit of Enterprise from ilovefiguresculpture.
  11. ^ Nations of the East from SIRIS.
  12. ^ Fountain of Energy from ilovefiguresculpture.
  13. ^ Washington from SIRIS.
  14. ^ Four Gaines from Vizcaya gift shop.
  15. ^ Scratching Her Heel from Metropolitan Museum of Art.
  16. ^ The Last Dryad from Philadelphia Museum of Art.
  17. ^ John James Audubon from Bronx Community College.
  18. ^ Leif Eriksson Memorial
  19. ^ Robert Henri from SIRIS.
  20. ^ Leda and the Swan from SIRIS.
  21. ^ Nature's Dance
  22. ^ Bishop White from SIRIS.
  23. ^ Churchill from SIRIS.
  24. ^ Witherspoon Building statues from Flickr.
  25. ^ Marcus Whitman from SIRIS.
  26. ^ James Caldwell from SIRIS.
  27. ^ Samuel Davies from SIRIS.
  28. ^ John McMillan from SIRIS.
  29. ^ John Witherspoon from SIRIS.
  30. ^ Francis Makemie from SIRIS.
  31. ^ Spandrel figures from SIRIS.
  32. ^ Missouri State Capitol frieze from SIRIS.
  33. ^ Ophelia from SIRIS.
  34. ^ Norma from SIRIS.
  35. ^ Sunny from SIRIS.
  36. ^ Little Lord Fauntleroy from SIRIS.
  37. ^ Lion's Head Fountain from Flickr.
  38. ^ Asia gatepost from Flickr.
  39. ^ America gatepost from Flickr.
  40. ^ Africa gatepost from Flickr.
  41. ^ Europe gatepost from Philadelphia Public Art.
  42. ^ Peacock doorway from Flickr.
  43. ^ Youth doorway from Flickr.

External links[edit]