Lot 119
  • 119

Alexander Calder

500,000 - 700,000 USD
bidding is closed


  • Alexander Calder
  • Mr. Uhlan
  • wire
  • 11 by 9 1/4 by 6 in. 27.9 by 23.5 by 15.2 cm.
  • Executed circa 1938, this work is registered in the archives of the Calder Foundation, New York, under application number A10511.


Mr. Uhlan (gift of the artist)
Perls Galleries, New York
Sotheby's, New York, May 9, 1996, lot 108
Private Collection, New York
Peter Freeman, Inc., New York
Private Collection
Acquired by the present owner from the above


Roslyn Harbor, Nassau County Museum of Art, Calder and Miró, June - September 1998, p. 10, illustrated
Madrid, Galería Elvira González, Calder, December 2010 - January 2011, cat. no. 1, p. 11, illustrated in color

Catalogue Note

Alexander Calder’s wire sculpture series was the sequel to his majestic Cirque Calder. His first experiments with wire date to 1925, but by then Calder was already intimately familiar with the medium, having used it often as a child to make jewelry for his sister’s dolls, so he quickly became remarkably dexterous at manipulating the wire, wielding it with absolute grace and humor. These early wire sculptures hung from a single string from the top point, allowing them to move and swing freely. Indeed, these works could be considered Calder’s earliest mobiles. Between 1927 and 1928, Calder produced numerous portraits of well-known personalities, including Calvin Coolidge, Babe Ruth and John D. Rockefeller. These early wire portraits had strong satirical and humorous undertones, but the portraits that followed in the 1930s became more intimate and personal as he began composing wire sculptures of his friends and family members. Calder replaced the caricature-like quality of the early portraits with a more serious interest in capturing the personality of subjects that were close to him, including Miro, Leger, Louise James, as well as Mr. Uhlan.

The present work from circa 1938 is a portrait of Mr. Uhlan, the superintendent in Calder’s New York City apartment building on 86th Street. The artist gifted the work to Mr. Uhlan, as he was in the habit of doing with his wire sculptures, mobiles and jewelry throughout his career. Here, Calder’s deft handling of a single wire, coiled and curved and twisted, renders Mr. Uhlan’s simple yet stunningly crafted likeness. From different angles, the work takes on different shapes, so the face morphs and changes as the viewer walks around it. Incredibly, Calder makes a virtually weightless wire appear to contain mass and density. Calder’s skillful manipulation of his materials married with the loving dedication to a friend imbues Mr. Uhlan with an intimate and personal spirit.