4 Woods (Diana)

about 1934
Alexander Calder (American, 1898–1976)

Object Place: New York, New York, United States; Object Place: Paris, France


Overall: 77.5 x 45.1 x 48.9 cm (30 1/2 x 17 3/4 x 19 1/4 in.)

Accession Number


Medium or Technique

Walnut with steel pins, iron base

Not On View





Although more widely known for his mobiles and wire sculptures, Alexander Calder, a third-generation sculptor, made art in many media. In his early career he made more than fifty wood sculptures reflecting the influence of the direct-carving method that such avant-garde sculptors as José de Creeft, Chaim Gross, and William Zorach were exhibiting widely.

These artists eschewed traditional methods for making fine sculpture, in which the sculptor’s original plaster model was reproduced in marble or bronze by other artisans. They preferred direct, personal engagement with the material-either wood or stone-to carve stylized figures inspired by the spare forms of American folk art, including bird decoys and weather vanes.

Calder began making wood sculptures in the late 1920s, about the same time he started creating figurative wire sculptures. In his earliest carvings, usually animals or female figures, he allowed the distinctive grain or shape of the wood to suggest the final form; he resisted the suggestion that he produce multiple versions of his 1928 Cow sculpture, explaining, “That piece of wood turned out to be a cow, but the next one might be a cat. How do I know?” As Calder’s other works became increasingly abstract in the mid-1930s, so did his wood sculptures. Diana reflects this later phase in its smooth, streamlined shapes that subtly suggest a female figure crowned by a crescent moon. Rather than being carved from a single block of wood, Diana is a “stabile” sculpture assembled from component parts that do not move but that suggest a tenuous sense of balance.

This text was adapted from Ward, et al., MFA Highlights: American Decorative Arts & Sculpture (Boston, 2006) available at www.mfashop.com/mfa-publications.html.


Paul D. Nelson, architect (98 Boulevard Auguste Blanqui, Paris 13, France); 1960, purchased by the MFA from Paul D. Nelson (April 14, 1960).

Credit Line

Frederick Brown Fund


© 2011 Calder Foundation, New York / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York.