Alexander Calder’s name is synonymous with air-borne, witty constructions of crisp planes and lines, pared down to essentials and delicately balanced. The same cannot be said of Calder: The Conquest of Time, a biography by Jed Perl.1 It’s a hefty six hundred, intensely serious pages (not counting notes and back-matter) and packed with detail. Ample biographies are common enough, but Perl’s bulky book, subtitled “The Early Years: 1898–1940,” accounts for only the first forty-two years of Calder’s life—he died aged seventy-eight in 1976. It’s worth noting that Mark Stevens and Annalyn Swan dealt brilliantly with the whole of Willem de Kooning’s...


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