Tate Modern Talk

Calder, the conquest of time Jed Perl in conversation with Alexander S. C. Rower

Calder in his studio at 14 rue de la Colonie, Paris, fall 1931© 2017 Calder Foundation, New York / DACS, London
Photo: Marc Vaux © Bibliothèque Kandinsky, Centre Georges Pompidou, Marc Vaux Collection​

Join Alexander S. C. Rower as he meets author Jed Perl at the launch of his new book

Calder: The Conquest of Time: The Early Years: 1898–1940 is based on a wealth of papers never before available, as well as scores of interviews, little-known works and many archival photographs that have never before been seen.

This deeply researched book opens with Calder’s peripatetic upbringing in Philadelphia, California, and New York. Born in 1898 into a family of artists – his father was a well-known sculptor, his mother a painter and a pioneering feminist – Calder went on as an adult to forge important friendships with a who’s who of twentieth-century creators, including Georges Braque, Marcel Duchamp, Martha Graham, Joan Miró, Piet Mondrian, and Virgil Thomson. We move through Calder’s early years studying engineering to his first artistic triumphs in Paris in the late 1920s, and to his emergence as a leader in the international abstract avant-garde. His marriage in 1931 to the free-spirited Louisa James – a great-niece of Henry James – is a richly romantic story, related here with a wealth of detail and nuance.

As we move from New York’s Greenwich Village in the Roaring Twenties, to the Left Bank of Paris during the Depression, and then back to the United States, Perl shows us why Calder was, and remains, a barrier breaker, an avant-garde artist with mass appeal.


Jed Perl is a regular contributor to The New York Review of Books. He was the art critic for The New Republic for twenty years and a contributing editor to Vogue for a decade, and is the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship. His previous books include Magicians and Charlatans, Antoine's Alphabet, and New Art City, which was a New York Times Notable Book and an Atlantic Book of the Year.

Alexander S. C. Rower is founder and president of the Calder Foundation. Since 1987, Rower has documented more than 22,000 works by Calder and established an extensive archive dedicated to all aspects of the artist’s career. He has curated and collaborated on over 100 Calder exhibitions worldwide, including projects at the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; Tate Modern, London; and Pushkin State Museum of Fine Arts, Moscow. He has published many texts on Calder’s life and work, and he frequently lectures on the subject.

Tate Modern


London SE1 9TG
Plan your visit

Date & Time

3 October 2017 at 09.30–11.00