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PROPERTY OF A DISTINGUISHED PRIVATE COLLECTOR

Alexander Calder
KNITTING
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Guaranteed Property. The seller of lots with this symbol has been guaranteed a minimum price from one auction or a series of auctions. If every lot in a catalogue is guaranteed, the Conditions of Sale will so state and this symbol will not be used for each lot.
550,000650,000
LOT SOLD. 706,000 GBP
JUMP TO LOT
21

PROPERTY OF A DISTINGUISHED PRIVATE COLLECTOR

Alexander Calder
KNITTING
Estimate
Irrevocable Bids
Lots with this symbol indicate that a party has provided Sotheby’s with an irrevocable bid on the lot that will be executed during the sale at a value that ensures that the lot will sell. The irrevocable bidder, who may bid in excess of the irrevocable bid, will be compensated based on the final hammer price in the event he or she is not the successful bidder or may receive a fixed fee in the event he or she is the successful bidder. If the irrevocable bidder is the successful bidder, the fixed fee (if applicable) for providing the irrevocable bid may be netted against the irrevocable bidder’s obligation to pay the full purchase price for the lot and the purchase price reported for the lot shall be net of such fixed fee. If the irrevocable bid is not secured until after the printing of the auction catalogue, a pre-lot announcement will be made indicating that there is an irrevocable bid on the lot. If the irrevocable bidder is advising anyone with respect to the lot, Sotheby’s requires the irrevocable bidder to disclose his or her financial interest in the lot. If an agent is advising you or bidding on your behalf with respect to a lot identified as being subject to an irrevocable bid, you should request that the agent disclose whether or not he or she has a financial interest in the lot.
Double Dagger
Indicates that the lot is being sold whilst subject to Temporary Importation, and that VAT is due at the reduced rate
Guaranteed Property
Guaranteed Property. The seller of lots with this symbol has been guaranteed a minimum price from one auction or a series of auctions. If every lot in a catalogue is guaranteed, the Conditions of Sale will so state and this symbol will not be used for each lot.
550,000650,000
LOT SOLD. 706,000 GBP
JUMP TO LOT

Details & Cataloguing

Contemporary Art Evening Auction

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London

Alexander Calder
1898 - 1976
KNITTING
signed and dated ‘49
oil on canvas
71.8 by 61.6 cm. 28 1/4 by 24 1/4 in.
Read Condition Report Read Condition Report

This work is registered in the archives of the Calder Foundation, New York, under application number A01247.

Provenance

Estate of Alexander Calder
Helly Nahmad Gallery, New York
Acquired from the above by the present owner in 2011

Exhibited

Turin, Palazzo a Vela, Calder, July - September 1983, p. 180, no. 327, illustrated

New York, Vintage20/Tina Kim Gallery, Calder - Nakashima, May - June 2008

New York, Helly Nahmad Gallery, Alexander Calder: The Painter, November - December 2011, p. 29, illustrated in colour

Literature

Exh. Cat., Los Angeles, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Calder and Abstraction: From Avant-Garde to Iconic, November 2013 - July 2014, p. 187, illustrated in colour (in installation at Alexander Calder, Palazzo a Vela, Turin, 1983)

Catalogue Note

"I met Miró in Dec. ’29 when I called on him in his tin-arched studio in Montmartre… We became very good friends and attended many things together… I came to love his painting, his color, his personages, and we exchanged works.”

Alexander Calder cited in: Exh. Cat., New York, Perls Galleries, Calder-Miró, 1961, n.p.

Executed in 1949, this medley of vibrant circular shapes on a muted grey background is a rare gem within Alexander Calder’s acclaimed oeuvre. Despite being best known for his revolutionary mobiles and monumental stabiles, Calder was hugely prolific across a number of mediums. While he continuously produced gouache paintings on paper throughout his long career, oils on canvas of this quality are undeniably scarce.

Abandoning a career as a mechanical engineer, Calder studied under George Luks and John Sloan from 1923 to 1925 at the Art Students League, where his formative art education was rooted in painting and figurative abstraction. Although his artistic legacy is best understood through kinetic sculpture, painting served as an anchor that operated in parallel to the sculptural works in establishing Calder’s core principles of line in space. In 1931, Calder joined the Abstract Creation Group and participated in group exhibitions. A shift towards the abstract, the use of geometric forms and ubiquitous presence of bold colours would become fundamental to his canvases, gouaches, and sculpture for the duration of his career.

These primary elements are perfectly articulated in the present work. Reduced to a handful of thin black lines, a ball of wool and two knitting needles (as alluded to in the work’s title, given after the fact of creation) are discernible in the centre of the composition and are surrounded by an array of abstract forms in Calder’s preferred palette of bold primary colours. The flat circular shapes in the lower half of the composition draw distinct parallels to the metal discs of the artist’s mobiles. These suspended geometric elements float across the picture plane with the same gliding grace as Calder’s three dimensional sculptures.

Not only does Knitting reflect Calder’s aesthetic development, it also points to his close relationship and affinity with Spanish Surrealist artist Joan Miró, who he had befriended during his time in Paris during the late 1920s. The two became life long friends and their works developed along parallel, yet resonant trajectories. Speaking of his friend, Calder recalled: “I met Miró in Dec. ’29 when I called on him in his tin-arched studio in Montmartre… We became very good friends and attended many things together, including a gymnasium… I came to love his painting, his color, his personages, and we exchanged works… Gymnasium is a thing of the past, but Miró + I go on”(Alexander Calder cited in: Exh. Cat., New York, Perls Galleries, Calder-Miró, 1961, n.p.). Ultimately, Miró helped steer Calder away from traditional modes of representation and towards a language of surrealist abstraction.

Knitting stands as a rare and idiosyncratic paradigm of Calder’s work in oil on canvas. Illuminating his artistic transition and continuous oscillation between figuration and abstraction, the present work represents a remarkable pendent to the simultaneous development of his iconic mobiles.

Contemporary Art Evening Auction

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London