Alexander Calder's first self-portrait

Calder drew this self-portrait, which shows him working with tools, at age 9.
Calder drew this self-portrait, which shows him working with tools, at age 9.
Thursday, March 10, 2011; 9:09 AM

THE STORY BEHIND THE WORK

One piece on display as part of the National Portrait Gallery's "Calder's Portraits: A New Language" seems to truly encapsulate the 20th-century artist: a self-portrait Calder completed at the tender age of 9. The crayon drawing - arguably one of Calder's earliest - shows the boy at work, sawing a piece of wood; handyman's debris surrounds him, including a toolbox, hammer and pliers (or, perhaps in a prescient twist, wire cutters). The child of artists, Calder was interested in how things worked and actually set out to become an engineer, working in both the hydraulics and automotive industries before discovering his true vocation in art. This love for tinkering and building persisted, however, setting him apart from his peers as an artist behind works that were - literally and figuratively - moving.

- Stephanie Merry


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