The world knows Alexander Calder as one of the greatest artists of the 20th century, but in 1927, he was best known as the son of Alexander Stirling Calder, a well-known sculptor who was commissioned to sculpt the woodwork and the fountain surround in the Museum’s Ellen Crane Memorial Room.
Though trained as an engineer, Alexander Calder began to focus on making art soon after graduating from college. Even as a boy, Calder enjoyed tinkering with bits of wire to make imaginative toys with moving parts. As an entrepreneurial effort to make a living as an artist, he created a series of playful wooden pull toys for children, eventually finding a company willing to manufacture them. The Gould Manufacturing Company, in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, marketed a line of “futuristic toys for advanced kiddies” based on the Calder prototypes.
In the 1930s the Berkshire Museum gave the young Calder his first public commission, a pair of mobiles designed for the Museum’s new theater. These pieces, which were recently conserved, still hang in their original niches on either side of the theater’s stage.
This permanent interactive exhibit showcases nine original wooden push-and-pull toys created by Alexander Calder in 1927. The exhibit also features replicas of the toys that visitors can play with. Make the seal bounce a ball on its nose; see the duck waddle across the room; and watch as mesmerizing spirals go round and round. Also on view are two early Calder motorized mobiles, precursors to his better-known mobiles.