At long last, there’s a major exhibition of the work of Alexander Calder at the Tate. Calder bowled spin; obviously; and was a frequent visitor to cricket parties at the Great House.
The Squire was given a preview as a number of the works are on loan from his private collection. He was accompanied by his old friend and cricketing enthusiast, Sally Tate. Third Man tagged along.
“Do you recall Al’s bowling TM? How the ball would hang tantalizing in the air before drifting away just out of reach and into the keeper’s gloves having taken the faintest of edges.”
Indeed TM could. Oft were the times he’d watched in awe that drift which this artist alone could achieve.
Many have wondered what first gave Calder the idea for ‘Object with Red Ball (1931)”.
The story is simply this: Calder was guesting for the Squire’s XI in the annual match against the Rather Stuffy Artists Cricket Club.
Later that night, the Squire suggested a game of ‘bar skittles’, which Calder, with his canny eye for line and flight and curve and space, played with facility, beating all comers.
As dawn broke and the company walked back to the Great House, Calder excused himself and made his way with the Blacksmith to the Forge.
Later that afternoon, the two emerged with ‘Object with Cricket Ball (1930)’. A year later, and suitably refined for the American market, the work re-emerged as the celebrated ‘Object with Red Ball’:
Over an enjoyable late luncheon the Squire, rather taken with the piece, commissioned a weather vane for the top of the Pavilion, which, as those who have played at the Great House know resembles Calder’s later ‘Red and Yellow Vane (1934)’ with its quiet homage to the round arm bowling of Old Everlasting and is reproduced above below the headline.
It is not generally known but when Calder died in 1976, a prototype bowling machine was discovered in a corner of his studio. It was another, but undelivered, commission from the Squire. Having rather typically stumped many an American connoisseur, who couldn’t make head or tail of the thing, the machine was transported to this country and now occupies ‘pride of space’ at the East end of the Great Gallery and, on rainy days, is brought into its proper use.
“This was where Calder was going next, TM: exploring the unfettered arc of the projectile, the line with neither width nor length.”