National Portrait Gallery
8th and G Streets, NW
Best known for his abstract mobiles and stabiles, Alexander Calder (1898-1976) was also a prolific portraitist. In addition to paintings and drawings, this unprecedented exhibition features Calder's three-dimensional works as a portraitist alongside contemporary documents—photographs, drawings, and especially caricatures by such artist-illustrators as Paolo Garretto, Miguel Covarrubias, and Paul Colin—and poses questions regarding the line between fine-art portraiture and caricature.
Throughout his career, Calder portrayed entertainment, sports, and art-world figures, including Josephine Baker, Jimmy Durante, Babe Ruth, and Charles Lindbergh, as well as colleagues Marion Greenwood, Fernand Léger, and Saul Steinberg, to name a few. Typically, Calder worked in the unorthodox medium of wire, a flexible linear material, which he shaped into three-dimensional portraits of considerable character and nuance. Suspended from the wall or ceiling, the portraits are free to move; because of this mobility, they seem—like their subjects—to have a life of their own.