Making discoveries in your own back yard are so fun. Today, I was at the Zoellner Arts Center at Lehigh University. I went to their gallery to see the Joan Mitchell show, which I will be writing a post about shortly! However, I was really surprised to see these tapestries hanging up. They are by none other than Alexander Calder (1898-1976).
Calder was a famous sculptor. You’ve probably seen some of his mobiles, which he started producing in the 1930s. Calder was born in Philadelphia. His father was a sculptor and his mother was a painter. After studying engineering, Calder studied at the Art Students’ League in New York
In celebration of the bicentennial of the American Revolution, Calder designed a set of six tapestries. His designs were then handwoven by the Pinton Freres atelier in Aubusson, France. A limited edition of 200 were produced.
Each of the tapestries are signed and have a number. I wasn’t able to closely examine each of the tapestries, because they were hanging quite high on the wall. Two of the tapestries were hung above benches. So I stepped up to take a closer look (and a few photos). Here is the signature and a mark that I can’t quite make out. I suppose it is the number of the tapestry.
Calder actually died the same year in which the tapestries were realized by the Pinton Freres atelier. These tapestries were a gift from Philip and Muriel Burman in 1999. The local newspaper, The Morning Call wrote more about the weaving technique when the gift was announced to the public:
The panels were made in Aubusson, France, using a centuries old technique that takes the weaver a month to create a single square yard of tapestry. The Bicentennial Tapestries were woven at Pinton Freres, the same studio that converted the art of Picasso, Chagall and Miro into Aubusson tapestry.
The sixth tapestry was in the permanent gallery downstairs, which I missed. More reason to go back and take another look!