Art: The Merry Modernist

By setting sculpture in motion, Alexander Calder made it fluent, witty and supremely friendly

Alexander Calder (1898-1976) may not have been the most profound sculptor of the 20th century, but he was certainly the most enjoyable of modernists--the man who delighted a public several generations long by making sculpture move. This year marks the centenary of his birth. Accordingly, the National Gallery of Art in Washington has put on a Calder retrospective. Admirably curated by Marla Prather, the show (199 sculptures plus other works) will move to the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art in September.

The Philadelphia-born Calder was a fluent and effusively industrious artist who made thousands of works, and Prather has done...

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