An extraordinary example of Alexander Calder’s ethereal and majestic Post-War mobiles, Untitled’s constellation of elements balance gracefully, displaying the sculptor’s absolute mastery of harmonic equilibrium. Executed in 1947, Untitled was acquired by Joan Prats, a Catalan supporter of the arts who played an integral part in shaping the intellectual and artistic scene of Barcelona in the 1930s. Prats, who worked in the family business as a milliner, had a creative personality that led him to pursue artistic studies at the Centre Artístic de Sant Lluc in Barcelona. It was there that he met Joan Miró, who remained a very close friend throughout his life. Miró, on his part, became an international artist, living in Paris for long periods of time, where he participated in the Surrealists' exhibitions, even if he never considered himself part of the movement. Similarly, Calder travelled to the French capital in the '20s where he met Miró in 1928. The two artists remained lifelong friends despite their markedly opposite personalities; Calder being an open and social character, Miró timid and tranquil. Indeed, the Catalan artist once described Calder as "a bear with a butterfly's heart" (in conversation with Prats' granddaughter, May 2013). Miró acted as a bridge between Calder and Prats, and it was this connection that enabled Calder’s work to be shown in Spain. Created in 1947, years after the sculptor had settled in the United States, Untitled was accompanied by an affectionate dedication note evincing the affection Calder felt towards Prats. The mobile, thus, remains a token of a relationship between an internationally renowned artistic figure and an art lover who lived for art and promoted it throughout his life. This work was part of Prats’ collection alongside wonderful examples of Miró’s constellation-like works.
Coming from a family of artistic tradition, for Calder - whose parents and grandfather were artists themselves - it was only natural to go to Paris and experience the Bohemian lifestyle, attend the meetings where movements were created and discussed, to breathe the new artistic currents and learn from them. While in Paris, Calder visited Miró in Barcelona several times, and in one of those visits he staged a performance of the Cirque Calder (1926-31) for the ADLAN association. This association, whose initials in Catalan stood for “Friends Of The New Art”, had been created among others by Joan Prats with the intention of making “art of the international avant-garde known to Barcelona and to further create a similar movement in Catalonia itself” (Alexandre Cirici, Presència de Joan Prats, Barcelona 1976, p.78). Thanks to Prats’ friendship with Miró, the ADLAN association benefitted from a link to the international avant-garde, staging exhibitions of work by Hans Arp, Man Ray, Salvador Dalí and Miró himself.
Reminiscent of Miró's compositions that mirror tracks of constellations in the sky, Untitled’s elements dance, perfectly balanced, suspended in the air like celestial bodies. Remarkably evocative of planets and satellites, they recall Calder’s own account of a journey he took in 1922 through the Panama Canal on his way to California inspiring him to create what are now his trademark artworks: “It was early in the morning on a calm sea, off Guatemala, when over my couch - a coil of rope - I saw the beginning of a fiery red sunrise on one side and the moon looking like a silver coin on the other (Alexander Calder, Calder: An Autobiography with Pictures, New York 1966, pp. 54-5). Untitled’s coloured disks hover in the air, moving gracefully and elegantly, sensitive to the most minimal air current and in constant interaction with their surroundings.
Calder achieved what no other artist had before him: to harness movement and make it an inherent part of his creations. The 'mobiles', as Marcel Duchamp dubbed them, have ever since their onset provoked admiration and poetic responses. Just one year before Untitled’s execution Jean Paul Sartre wrote: “his mobiles are at once lyrical inventions, technical, almost mathematical combinations and the tangible symbol of Nature, of that great, vague Nature that squanders pollen and suddenly causes a thousand butterflies to take wing, that Nature of which we shall never know whether it is the blind sequence of causes and effects or the timid, endlessly deferred and ruffled unfolding of an idea” (Jean Paul Sartre, Les Mobiles de Calder, Paris 1946).
Calder, who had spent long periods of time in Paris since his first visit in 1926 and 1933, became well acquainted with the artistic circles of the city and he had many good friends in the Surrealist group even if, like his friend Joan Miró, he never considered himself part of the movement or signed any of their manifestos. When the Second World War started in 1939 many of these artists fled to the United States, where Calder and his wife Louise had settled permanently in 1933. Calder, a generous and social spirit, maintained his friendship with them, having André Masson and his wife as neighbours in a town nearby their Roxbury home, or Joan Miró and his family visiting on repeated occasions.
Given the shortage of metal caused by the war, Calder had to devise new ways to find materials to construct his mobiles and stabiles. He did so by slicing found metallic objects such as old boats and cutting the metal sheets into smaller pieces he could work with. He would then join them with wire, making them balance graciously, the elements engaged in an ever-lasting waltz. Untitled, with its discs swaying and hovering harmoniously, epitomises what James Johnson Sweeney, celebrated curator for The Museum of Modern Art, wrote about Calder’s mobiles: “There is an element of the piper of Hamelin’s tune in the purring and jigging of…his ‘mobiles’ that calls the child out of us in spite of ourselves. We grin and enjoy it…we are conscious of a definite heightening of vitality that does associate itself somehow or other with the space-relationships, the architectonics, the line-and colour-organisations, as well as the rhythms of the objects. Calder’s idiom has the fibre for simplicity; his work bears an integral relationship with our contemporary environment” (James Johnson Sweeney cited in: Exhibition Catalogue, London, Pace Gallery, Calder After the War, 2013, p. 19).