Alexander Calder (American, 1898-1976)
Alexander Calder (American, 1898-1976)
Alexander Calder (American, 1898-1976)
Alexander Calder (American, 1898-1976)
Alexander Calder (American, 1898-1976)
Alexander Calder (American, 1898-1976)
Alexander Calder (American, 1898-1976)
Alexander Calder (American, 1898-1976)
Alexander Calder (American, 1898-1976)
Alexander Calder (American, 1898-1976)
Alexander Calder (American, 1898-1976)

Lot 10
Property of a Private New York Collector

*Alexander Calder (American, 1898-1976)
Spotted Orb and Pyramids, 1956
Gouache on paper
Signed lower right, “Calder 56”
29 1/2 x 41 1/4 inches (75 x 105 centimeters)

Estimate: $20,000-40,000

LOT SOLD: $78,750

This Lot is registered with the Calder Foundation under Application Number A07519

Bid Online:

Perls Gallery, New York;
Ester Robles Gallery, Los Angeles, CA;
A Prominent Southern California Collection, circa 1970;
Name of collector will be provided to the buyer.
Purchased from the Estate of the above by the present owner.

Long Beach, Long Beach Museum of Art, Calder Gouaches: The Art of Alexander Calder, January 11 – February 8, 1970, traveled to San Diego, Fine Arts Museum of San Diego (February 27 – March 9, 1970), Phoenix, Phoenix Museum of Art (May 1 – May, 1970)

“Calder Gouaches: The Art of Alexander Calder,” Long Beach Museum of Art, 1970, p. 6, p. 8 illustrated in color.

Calder Gouaches-Art of Alexander Calder Catalog

Although born in 1898 to a family of artists, Alexander Calder’s legacy is rooted in purposefully calculated, geometric works of art and sculpture.  His interest in controlled, mechanical creation was apparent from a young age, and eventually led him to acquire a degree in engineering from Stevens Institute of Technology in Hoboken, New Jersey.  After graduating in 1919, he worked a number of jobs, such as draftsman for a power company, adviser at a lumber trade magazine, and fireman.[1]   Two years later, he moved to New York and enrolled as a student at the Art Students’ League.  While studying here, he became acquainted with Ash Can School artists John Sloan and George Luks, who influenced Calder’s decision to take his next job as an illustrator for the National Police Gazette.

Calder’s experience as an illustrator was especially influential for the path of his future artistic career.  This job led him to discover the Ringling Brother’s and Barnum and Bailey Circus, from which he derived his “Miniature Circus,” a small-scale model directly representative of the animation and ingenuity of his later works, specifically his gouaches.

In 1926, Calder moved to France, where he continued to hone his ideology as an artist.  His visit to the studio of De Stijl artist Piet Mondrian in 1930 was particularly significant, as it was here that he realized his desire to use inert, geometric shapes and primary colors.

The Present Work

The impact of this experience was still present twenty years later, when he executed the gouache Spotted Orb and Pyramids in 1956 At this time he was living between Paris and New York, though primarily associating himself with European cubist and surrealist artists, such as Yves Tanguay and André Masson.  The color palette consists of red, yellow, blue and green, and the forms are immobile and geometric. According to Wahneta T. Robinson, curator of the Long Beach Museum of Art,  the subject and title of this work are derived from an experience that Calder had two years prior to its completion.  While on a return flight from a trip to India, the pilot decided to circle the pyramids while flying over Egypt.[2]   He later he recalled these images, and applied his interpretation to create this work.

This work appears to be among the earliest of Calder’s use of pyramids as a subject in his gouaches.    Many comparable works of pyramids—some with orbs– were executed during the 1970s, though none include this particular arrangement of pyramids, orbs, and color.  The use of blue tinged with yellow to create one mild, and one stronger plane of green is an uncommon feature among his pyramid gouaches; most incorporate exclusively the primary colors, yellow, red, and blue.   In addition, the spotted orb contrasts with the clean geometric lines of the blocked pyramids to create a striking image.

This work was lent by Perls Galleries in 1970 for a traveling exhibition titled Calder Gouaches, organized by the Long Beach Museum of Art.  Perls Galleries represented Calder from 1955 to 1976.  During the tour, it was shown at Long Beach Museum of Art, Fine Arts Gallery of San Diego, and Phoenix Art Museum. The present work is illustrated in color ( no. 2 ) in the printed catalogue, Calder Gouaches: The Art of Alexander Calder, which accompanied the exhibition.

Inscriptions:  Two labels from the Fine Arts Gallery of San Diego on the verso, attached to a section of the cardboard preserved from the (probably) original backboard with “Summer Show”  typed twice.   Affixed to these labels are two labels from the Esther Robles Gallery, one with the typed inscription ALEXANDER CALDER / SPOTTED ORB & PYRAMIDS / GOUACHE / 29 ½’’ X 41 ¾’’ / 1956

[1] Wahneta T. Robinson, Calder Gouaches, 1970, no. 2, p. 3.

[2] Wahneta T. Robinson, Calder Gouaches, 1970, no. 2, p. 3.

Condition: Some discoloration overall (slightly yellow).  When the work arrived at Leigh Keno’s home via FedEx on Dec.13 with the glass broken.  Shards of glass from the frame had accumulated at the bottom of the box causing multiple creases along approx. 75% of the bottom edge.  The broken glass also created approximately a dozen minute specs of paint loss at the bottom of the piece, especially the lower right pyramid.  Two small pieces of tape, previously used to secure the work at upper left and upper right corners have bled through to the front.  From the previous mat, there is a border of light discoloration along the outer edge of the entire work.  Please see detail photos which show the aforementioned condition issues.

*Should Keno Auctions own any lot in whole or in part or have a financial interest in any lot equivalent to an ownership interest, the catalogue will clearly identify any such property with a * symbol.