Pyramids at Dawn

by Alexander Calder


DIMENSIONS: (unframed) 20.5 x 28.3 inches (52.1 x 71.9 cm)
SIGNATURE: Signed ‘Calder’ (lower right); numbered ‘83/100’ (lower left)
MEDIUM: Lithograph on paper

This striking lithograph by Alexander Calder depicts the Great Pyramids of Giza just outside of Cairo, the vibrant red sun rising in the distance. The pyramids and their surroundings were a theme Calder returned to time and time again. The pared-down palette satisfied the artist’s taste for contrast. Here Calder has used a limited palette of red, white, blue, black and yellow to depict them.


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    Calder wrote “I have chiefly limited myself to the use of black and white as being the most disparate colours. Red is the colour most opposed to both of these— and then, finally, the other primaries. The secondary colours and intermediate shades serve only to confuse and muddle the distinctness and clarity.” His limited colour palette has created a graphic take on a well-known location.

    Private Collection, United States;

    Private Collection, United Kingdom

    Alexander Calder (1898- 1976) was an American sculptor and draughtsman and the pioneer of mobiles. Born in Philadelphia, the son and grandson of sculptors, Calder studied engineering and worked at various jobs before attending the Art Students League, New York, to study painting between 1923 and 1926.


    In 1926 he began to make small animated animals in wood and wire, which eventually became numerous enough to form a circus. His first one-man exhibition was at the Weyhe Gallery, New York in 1928.


    From the years 1928 until 1933 Calder mainly lived in Paris, where he became friendly with Miró, Pascin and Duchamp, who influenced his aesthetic vision. At the same time, he began making children’s games, specifically puppets. These geometric forms stayed with the American artist throughout his life. In both his paintings and sculptures, he created work that was alive and free, with a three-dimensional sense conveyed by his connecting lines and hypnotic contours, like shown in his ‘Hynose’ series. Calder joined the group Abstraction-Creation in 1931. He started to make sculptures, to which Duchamp gave the name mobiles, which could be moved by hand or by small electric motors, followed from 1934 by pieces which were set in motion by air currents. The name ‘stabiles’ was later suggested by Arp for his sculptures which did not move.


    Calder lived mainly in the USA, at Roxbury, Connecticut, from 1933 until 1953, when he also bought a house at Sache (Indre-et-Loire).


    He was awarded the main prize for sculpture at the 1952 Venice Biennale and the First Prize for Sculpture at the 1958 Pittsburgh International.  Calder died in New York.

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