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Alexander Calder (1898-1976)




c. 1930




Overall: 15 × 11 3/4 × 12 1/2 in. (38.1 × 29.8 × 31.8 cm)

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Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; 50th Anniversary Gift of Mrs. Louise Varèse in honor of Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney

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In Paris during the late 1920s, Alexander Calder arrived at his revolutionary notion of “drawing in space,” a concept that remained central to his work throughout his career. Calder’s wire portrait heads were made from 1928 to about 1931-32, and they serve as a visual record of those he knew. At once linear and volumetric, these works act as three dimensional, continuous line drawings. Avant-garde composer Edgard Varèse (1885-1965) and the artist lived in the same building in Paris. Calder kept Varèse’s portrait until 1965, when he arrived unexpectedly at Louise Varèse’s door shortly after her husband’s death and gave it to her. In 1980, Mrs. Varèse gave the portrait to the Whitney in honor of the Museum’s founder Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney’s support of the composer’s New Symphony Orchestra.

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