After working as an engineer in various capacities and places, Alexander Calder began painting New York City street scenes and portraits. These reflect the realist approach of his teachers at the Art Students League, notably John Sloan. In this work Calder pictures himself as a handsome young man still sporting the mustache he said he “raised . . . to look more like a seasoned engineer.”
Calder created this self-portrait at the moment when his career was beginning to take off with the wire sculptures he made. In it we see a contemplative view of a young man in the process of establishing his reputation as a professional artist.