Alexander Calder, ‘Pup’, 1949, Sotheby's

Property from the Collection of Otis and Velma Dozier

Executed in 1949, this work is registered in the archives of the Calder Foundation, New York, under application number A05582.

From the Catalogue
Created in 1949 for Otis and Velma Dozier, Calder’s friends and patrons of the Dallas arts scene, Pup is a brilliant manifestation of Calder’s fascination with animal subjects, as well as a testament to his new friendship with the Doziers. Calder gifted Pup to the Doziers during a trip to the artist’s Roxbury studio in 1949, after the Doziers helped commission a large scale mobile, Flower (1949) for the Dallas Museum of Fine Arts. Such intimate provenance coupled with the playful subject matter imparts this sculpture with an added layer of personality and charm. Bewitched by Calder’s hand, Pup comes to life with all of the playful dynamism that defines the artist’s creations.

Following the Dozier’s trip to Roxbury, Calder and Otis exchanged letters discussing their body of work and new experiments. Calder writes:

10 Nov
Dear Otis,
…About mobiles – in 1931 I made constructions which did not move – except for objects – and which Arp later called ‘Stabiles.’ I had a show at the Galerie Percier, in Paris. In 1932 I showed the first ‘Mobiles’ (name by Marcel Duchamp) at the Galerie Vignon. There were some 15 working with motors, but also a lot of others which moved when displaced by hand…Tinkering with motors and ‘belting’ (usually a string) became such a chore that I got away from the motorized designs, in favor of things simpler to concoct and easier to transport. Besides, dependence on the wind makes the mobile ‘turn on and off’ automatically, instead of being always definite. I believe I am to have a show in Houston in the spring, sometime, so I’ll be seeing you.
Greetings to you both, and to Mrs. Camp,
From Louisa & me, Sandy

Calder was always particularly inspired by animal forms from the beginning of his career when he created Calder’s Circus in 1926-31, now in the collection of the Whitney Museum of American Art. With these delicate creatures, Calder strikes a balance of form and abstraction, elevating and enriching these figures sculpted from wire and metal. His distinct manipulation of line, shape and color incites the viewer’s imagination, creating a character and sense of personality within the work. The Pup’s red tongue, tethered to the body but with freedom of motion, invites an imagined narrative. “Side by side with the ‘action’ of the animal goes its identity. For instance, if we are making a drawing of a dog it must have at least an indication of the precise breed of dog we are drawing. This feature of the drawing, the portrait element, is quite as essential as the other. It entails more intimate study and knowledge and can be attained less by that rapid drawing and recording so essential to the action phase.” (Alexander Calder, Animal Sketching, New York 1926, p. 15)

Calder’s innovative approach to sculpture challenged the way viewers engaged with and conceived of Postwar art. Even his more abstract stabile figures are inspired in some ways by the animals he so carefully studied. His progression toward abstraction and hanging mobiles often still evoke the physical forms and characteristics of animals. He saturates these creatures with personality and individuality. His animals, though inanimate and crafted of metal and paint, seem to take on a new life through the artist’s vision. Infused with Calder’s magic, Pup sheds its industrial parts to become a lovable, unique work of fine art.
—Courtesy of Sotheby's

Otis and Velma Dozier, Dallas (gift of the artist in 1949)
Thence by descent to the present owner in 1988

About Alexander Calder

American artist Alexander Calder changed the course of modern art by developing an innovative method of sculpting, bending, and twisting wire to create three-dimensional “drawings in space.” Resonating with the Futurists and Constructivists, as well as the language of early nonobjective painting, Calder’s mobiles (a term coined by Marcel Duchamp in 1931 to describe his work) consist of abstract shapes made of industrial materials––often poetic and gracefully formed and at times boldly colored––that hang in an uncanny, perfect balance. His complex assemblage Cirque Calder (1926–31), which allowed for the artist’s manipulation of its various characters presented before an audience, predated Performance Art by some 40 years. Later in his career, Calder devoted himself to making outdoor monumental sculptures in bolted sheet steel that continue to grace public plazas in cities throughout the world.

American, 1898-1976, Lawnton, Pennsylvania