Alexander Calder Josephine Baker (III) Paris, c. 1927

  • Not on view

“I think best in wire,” Calder once commented. The artist bent, pinched, and twisted strands of wire to fashion this tribute to Josephine Baker, one of the most celebrated performers of her day. For Calder, wire’s appeal was that it “moves of its own volition” and “goes off into wild scrolls and tight tendrils”—a description that suits this portrait particularly well. But, while Josephine Baker III was innovative in its formal qualities, the exaggerated features of Calder’s depiction were in keeping with harmful caricatures of Black people in popular entertainment. Though Calder eventually dedicated himself entirely to abstract art, this figurative work—likely one of his first in wire—was a critical touchpoint for his lifelong interest in motion and shadow.

Gallery label from Alexander Calder: Modern from the Start, 2021
Steel wire
39 x 22 3/8 x 9 3/4" (99 x 56.6 x 24.5 cm)
Gift of the artist
Object number
© 2024 Calder Foundation, New York / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York
Painting and Sculpture

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1966, The Museum of Modern Art, New York, acquired as gift from the artist.

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