The Alexander Calder sculpture L'Homme (which is French for "Man") is a large-scale outdoor sculpture in Parc Jean-Drapeau, located in Montreal. Calder was commissioned to build this large metallic sculpture for presentation at Montreal's World Fair in 1967. Scroll down below the picture for more ...
Share this page via:
Calder's sculptural work can be broken down into two categories: "mobiles" and "stabiles." Mobiles are sculptures that utilize balance and movement, and have also been called "kinetic art." A mobile usually has a number of objects that hang from a single string, and the artist has arranged them so that their weights balance each other based on how they are positioned. Calder is famous for his mobiles, and we'll delve into those at a later time.
L'Homme, however, is considered a "stabile." I think you can understand the meaning of that - it's stable and stationary, so it's the opposite of something that is mobile and moving. Calder explained the difference between stabiles and mobiles this way: "You have to walk around a stabile or through it - a mobile dances in front of you."
At the time that Calder was commissioned to make this sculpture, he had a studio in Saché, France, and nearby was the Biemont Factory, an industrial company where Calder engaged the boilermakers to assist him in building his large-scale sculptures. What exactly is a boilermaker, you might ask? A boilermaker is a trained craftsman who produces steel fabrications from plates and sections, welding pieces together. Quite literally, they make hot water boilers for heating water in large-scale buildings, among other things. At any rate, Calder would create a model of the sculpture, the research department at the factory would scale it up to its final size, then the boilermakers would complete the actual metalwork — all under Calder's supervision.
By making a sculpture so large ("L'homme" is approximately 80 feet tall), Calder is presenting the viewer with an object that cannot be viewed in just one way. Unlike viewing a painting on the wall, where one stands in front of it to view it, L'homme forces the viewer to assess the sculpture from multiple vantage points. The sculpture appears one way when viewed from 20 feet away, it appears different when viewed from 5 feet away, different again when underneath it, different again when viewing from the other side.
Take a look at our gallery of pictures below to see several different views of Calder's sculpture from all angles.
A view of Calder's sculpture "L'homme" from underneath near the center.
Looking closely at details separate from the whole makes Calder's sculpture look like a different work of art.
Calder's signature, represented by an entertwined "C" and "A," with the year of this sculpture's creation ("67," meaning 1967), can be seen here.
As you can see, the way sunlight hits Calder's sculpture and creates shadows gives it an ever-changing appearance.
These structural supports almost look like steps, although one cannot climb on this Calder sculpture.
One could probably take 100 pictures of this sculpture and have no two images look the same.
These examples of viewing a sculpture "in the round" show that there's no one way to view a sculpture. Check out our feature on another famous sculpture, The Winged Victory of Samothrace at the Louvre, which shows that when you do look at all sides of a sculpture, sometimes there's a surprise waiting to be found ...
Want to see more Calder? Check out this blog post about Calder's sculpture titled "Black Flag" at the Storm King Art Center.