Alexander Calder

T and Swallow


Not on display

Alexander Calder 1898–1976
Wood and steel
Object: 762 × 324 × 286 mm
Purchased 1969

Display caption

Long concerned with movement, the American sculptor Alexander Calder invented what Marcel Duchamp named the ‘mobile’. These works brought a lightness and movement to the traditionally static and solid world of sculpture. Calder first showed T and Swallow under the generic title Mobile in the Abstract and Concrete exhibition in London in 1936. He altered the title in 1970 to draw attention to the hanging form that is an abstracted sign for a swallow.

Gallery label, December 2005

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Catalogue entry

Alexander Calder 1898-1976

T01142 T and Swallow c.1936

Inscribed 'CALDER' along one end of the wooden form at the top
Wood and wire on a metal base, 30 x 12 3/4 x 11 1/4 (76 x 32.5 x 28.5)
Purchased from Mrs Nicolette Gray (Grant-in-Aid) 1969
Prov: Mrs Nicolette Gray, London (gift from the artist)
Exh: Abstract and Concrete, Lefevre Gallery, London, April 1936 (7) as 'Mobile 1936'; Cambridge Arts Club, May-June 1936 (no catalogue)

As a way of helping artists at a time when sales were very bad, Mrs Nicolette Gray organised an exhibition called Abstract and Concrete which was shown first at St Giles, Oxford, in February 1936 and afterwards at the Liverpool School of Architecture in March, the Lefevre Gallery in London in April and finally the Cambridge Arts Club in May-June. The first exhibition in Britain almost entirely devoted to abstract painting and sculpture, it also included recent work by Kandinsky, Mondrian, Moholy-Nagy, Helion, Miró, Domela and Giacometti, as well as by British artists such as Ben Nicholson, John Piper, Barbara Hepworth and Henry Moore.

In an undated letter from New York to Mrs Gray, Alexander Calder states that 'I have made friends with Dr Honeyman of Reid & Lefevre, and he has been kind enough to undertake to carry a small, standing object to London'. This is accompanied by a drawing of the present work with instructions on how to assemble it. As the catalogue of the exhibition in Oxford only lists one work by Calder, 'Mobile, 1935', which was a hanging mobile lent by Herbert Read, the probability is that it only arrived in time for the London showing, though it was probably also included in the subsequent exhibition at Cambridge. (The works from Paris were all brought over together by a carrier and, as Mrs Gray recalls, there was great difficulty in persuading the Customs that they were works of art). This sculpture was left behind after the exhibition was over in the hope that Mrs. Gray could sell it, and the artist eventually gave it to her as a present.

Calder's original letter mentioned no title for this work and it appeared in the exhibition at Reid and Lefevre as 'Mobile, 1936'. However, on being asked in 1970 to provide a title for it, Calder suggested that it should be called 'T and Swallow'.

Published in:
Ronald Alley, Catalogue of the Tate Gallery's Collection of Modern Art other than Works by British Artists, Tate Gallery and Sotheby Parke-Bernet, London 1981, p.92, reproduced p.92

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