Alexander Calder (1898-1976) lived in Paris between 1926 and 1933. During these years the young artist created and performed one of the most important and beloved works, his miniature circus (1926-1931). More than twenty years later Jean Painleve made Le Grande Cirque Calder 1927, begun in 1953 and completed in 1955.
Calder playfully manipulates his miniatures in front of a small audience of friends: pulling strings, activating levers, turning cranks and releasing springs. A horse trots around the ring as a trick rider catapults onto its back. Trapeze artists latch arms, fly through the air and then drop into a net. A lion roars before taking its handler's head in its mouth; an elephant blows sawdust from a pan. A dancer, naked but for some strategically placed fringe, seductively undulates. In the closing act two chariots and four fleet stallions set off on a sweaty race.
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