Alexander Calder’s fascination with the circus began in his mid-twenties when he was sent to do illustrations of the Barnum & Bailey circus for a New York journal. While living in Paris in 1926, he began creating a series of small-scale sculptural works—made of wire, fabric, and other materials—depicting a miniature circus in which tiny performers walked tightropes, danced, and performed acrobatics. He would often bring Calder’s Circus to life for audiences in his Paris apartment. Harlequin’s Dream takes the iconic form of a traditional harlequin’s hat and reduces it to three simple forms, bringing to life Calder’s favorite color scheme of red, yellow, and blue. Black is also brought into the composition through a large, gestural swoop that nearly leaps from the page.
Label from Artists in Depth: Arp, Miró, Calder, March 25, 2011–April 15, 2012