Calder The Conquest of Time: The Early Years: 1898-1940 Jed Perl

Publication date:
24 Oct 2017
Yale University Press
704 pages: 235 x 187mm
400 col. & b-w illus.
Sales territories:
Exclusive throughout the British Commonwealth (excluding Canada, Hong Kong, Malaysiz, and Singapore)Nonexclusive throughout the world (excluding the US and its territories, the Philippine Republic, and Canada)

The first biography of America's greatest twentieth-century sculptor. In this beautifully written, deeply researched book Jed Perl shows how Alexander Calder became an avant-garde artist with enduring appeal.

One of our most beloved modern artists, Calder is celebrated above all as the inventor of the mobile. Only now is the full story of his life being told in a gloriously illustrated biography, which features unseen photographs and is based on scores of interviews and unprecedented access to Calder's papers.

Born into a family of artists, Calder forged 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. His early years studying engineering were followed by artistic triumphs in Paris in the late 1920s, and his emergence as a leader in the international abstract avant-garde.

His marriage in 1931 to Louisa James—a great-niece of Henry James—is a richly romantic story. This transatlantic life carries readers from New York's Greenwich Village, to the Left Bank of Paris during the Depression, and then to a refugee-filled London just before the War, where Calder's circle of friends included Barbara Hepworth, Ben Nicholson and Kenneth Clark.

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 CharlatansAntoine's Alphabet, and New Art City, which was a New York Times Notable Book and an Atlantic Book of the Year.

"A meticulously researched biography of one of the most important sculptors of the 20th century. . . Not only an essential record of the first 40 years of Calder's life, but an exceptional chronicle of the genesis of modernism."
Kirkus Starred Review 

“Calder’s magic brilliantly captivated by an astute biographer.”—John Richardson, author of A Life of Picasso

“Calder is an artist whose influence is so ubiquitous that you sometimes completely lose sight of him. Jed Perl, one of our most brilliant art critics, has remedied this in a superbly researched, illustrated, and crafted biography of his early years. We can now savor Calder's accomplishment fully and see where his genius lies, and how it matters to us today.” —John Ashbery

“In this richly satisfying biography, Calder appears as charming as ever, but he is also a much more powerful figure than the beloved teddy bear of legend. He becomes a modern philosopher-king, unpretentious but serious, who takes the true measure of a world that never stops moving.”—Mark Stevens, co-author of De Kooning: An American Master

“Jed Perl has the critical imagination to imagine Calder’s imagination, and the rare ability to engage that of the reader.”—Fran Lebowitz

“A masterwork account of the life of one of America’s greatest artists that’s also an account of America coming into its own. Passionate, learned, playful and ranging, it’s as solidly-grounded as a stabile, but like a mobile it appears to defy gravity—and float.”—Joshua Cohen, author of Book of Numbers

“Perl’s vibrant, driving prose . . . reveals how Calder’s magnetic personality and synthetic thinking determined a radical new course for 20th-century art.”—Adam D. Weinberg, Alice Pratt Brown Director, Whitney Museum of American Art