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Alexander CALDER

United States of America 1898 – 1976

  • also worked in France

La Bobine [Bobbin] 1970 Materials & Technique: sculptures, painted steel

Primary Insc: signed monogram and dated, welded metal, "AC 70"
Dimensions: 300.0 h x 432.0 w x 257.0 d cm
Acknowledgement: Purchased 1972
Accession No: NGA 72.41
Subject: Machinery
Image rights: © Calder Foundation, New York. Licensed by Viscopy
  • with Galerie Maeght, Paris, 1970;
  • from whom bought by the Commonwealth Art Advisory Board, February 1972 (title transferred to the Australian National Gallery, July 1990)

Calder's static works, like La bobine 1970, are known as 'stabiles' to distinguish them from the 'mobiles', works with movable elements. The term was invented for them by Jean Arp (1887-1966) in 1932 soon after the first exhibition of mobiles, when he asked Calder: '"Well, what were those things you did last year — stabiles?" Whereupon I [Calder] seized the term and applied it first of all to all the things previously shown at [Galerie] Percier [Paris 1931] and later to the large stabile objects.'1

By the late 1950s Calder's stabiles had increased in size to the extent that it was no longer possible to make them himself. He turned to a number of metal shops near his home in Roxbury, Connecticut, to fabricate his work. In 1962 he also began to use the Etablissements Biémont, in Tours, located near his studio at Saché, France. La bobine was fabricated there in 1970. Calder described the process in 1969 at the time of his retrospective exhibition at Foundation Maeght, St Paul-de-Vence:

I make a little maquette of sheet aluminium, about 50 cm high. With that I'm free to add a piece, or to make a cutout. As soon as I'm satisfied with the result I take the maquette to my Biémont friends … and they enlarge the maquette as much as I want. When the enlargement is finished, provisionally, I go to add the ribs and the gussets, or other things which I hadn't thought of. After that they work out my ideas on the bracing. And that does it.2

The French title La bobine translates into English as spool or bobbin, but may also refer to a grotesque figure.

Michael Lloyd & Michael Desmond European and American Paintings and Sculptures 1870-1970 in the Australian National Gallery 1992 p.340.

  1. Jean Lipman, Calder's Universe, New York: Viking Press, 1976, p.305.
  2. ibid., pp.305-6.

Text © National Gallery of Australia, Canberra