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Alexander Calder The Mobile Man. Compiled by B. Hagerty Amistad Elementary Sept. 26, 2005 Balancing and Weighing Science Kit.

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alexander calder the mobile man

Alexander CalderThe Mobile Man

Compiled by B. Hagerty

Amistad Elementary

Sept. 26, 2005

Balancing and Weighing Science Kit


Do you know what you want to be when you grow up? Some people do. Alexander Calder was one of those people. He was born in 1898, and from the time he was a boy, he knew he wanted to be an artist.

Alexander and his mother at a beach in California in 1909. He was 10 years old in this picture.


Alexander, or Sandy to his friends, always liked to make things. When he was only 5 years old, he used wood and wire to make statues of people and animals. When he was eight (8), he began making jewelry. Using beads and copper wire, he created jewelry for his sister Peggy’s dolls.


Even when he grew up, Sandy Calder loved toys and dolls and animals. He once made a tiny circus. From metal, wood, cloth, and paper, Calder made acrobats who could swing through the air and elephants that could blow water from rubber trunks. Today, you can see Calder’s circus at a museum in New York City.

Sandy and his toy bulls.

A balancing acrobat.


Sandy continued to work on his art. He grew to love bright colors like red and blue. He liked to use simple shapes like rectangles and circles. He wondered if he could figure out a way to make these shapes move. So he invented mobiles, which could hang in the air and “dance with the joy of life and surprises.” By the time Calder died in 1976, people all over the world were enjoying his new form of art.


When you make your mobiles in this lesson, you had to figure out how to create a balance. So did Sandy Calder. He worked hard, cutting out shapes, arranging them, and attaching them so that each one balanced the other. He was pleased if his mobiles moved in the breeze or made interesting shadows.


Can you pick out the fulcrums and the weights in this mobile? How might it move in the air?

One of Calder’s most famous mobiles, which hangs in the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., is bigger than a school bus! When people enter the museum, this beautiful red, black and blue mobile is one of the first things they see.