• 1956 Map of the Paris Metro. Courtesy of Cameron Booth. https://www.cambooth.net.

Renaissance and Rebuilding: Calder and Kelly's Paris

American artists Alexander Calder and Ellsworth Kelly met in Paris, a few years after the end of World War II. Since the late 1920s, Calder and his wife Louisa had spent significant periods of time living in Paris and in other parts of France, and the couple once more began travelling there after the war. Kelly, who had first gone to Paris in 1944 with the United States Army, returned in 1948 to attend the École des Beaux-Arts, ultimately remaining in France for six years. [i]

When they met in 1950, Calder and Kelly’s lives and careers were at vastly different stages: Calder’s momentous practice had already been honored with what biographer Jed Perl describes as a “career-defining retrospective” [ii] at The Museum of Modern Art, and his reputation was growing at pace. The younger Kelly, meanwhile, was then still a relatively unknown artist. Despite this, an affinity and friendship developed between the two artists, something we celebrate in our exhibition Calder / Kelly.

In honor of this exhibition, and to keep the conversation going, we’ve prepared a series of short texts that map out the art world of postwar Paris where they first met, and expand on the story of how Calder and Kelly each became involved in the city’s cultural life.

Read more below!



[i] Jed Perl, “Apollonian Affinities: Thirty-six Observations on Alexander Calder and Ellsworth Kelly,” in Calder / Kelly. New York: Lévy Gorvy, 2018, IX. Exhibition catalogue.
[ii] Perl, “Apollonian Affinities…”, VII.