Alberto Giacometti (Italian pronunciation: [alˈbɛrto dʒakoˈmetti]; 10 October 1901 – 11 January 1966) was a Swiss sculptor, painter, draftsman and printmaker. Beginning in 1922, he lived and worked mainly in Paris but regularly visited his hometown Borgonovo to see his family and work on his art.
Giacometti was one of the most important sculptors of the 20th century. His work was particularly influenced by artistic styles such as Cubism and Surrealism. Philosophical questions about the human condition, as well as existential and phenomenological debates played a significant role in his work. Around 1935 he gave up on his Surrealistic influences in order to pursue a more deepened analysis of figurative compositions. Giacometti wrote texts for periodicals and exhibition catalogues and recorded his thoughts and memories in notebooks and diaries. His self-critical nature led to great doubts about his work and his ability to do justice to his own artistic ideas but acted as a great motivating force.
Between 1938 and 1944 Giacometti's sculptures had a maximum height of seven centimeters (2.75 inches). Their small size reflected the actual distance between the artist's position and his model. In this context he self-critically stated: "But wanting to create from memory what I had seen, to my terror the sculptures became smaller and smaller". After the war, Giacometti created his most famous sculptures: his extremely tall and slender figurines. These sculptures were subject to his individual viewing experience—between an imaginary yet real, a tangible yet inaccessible space.
In Giacometti's whole body of work, his painting constitutes only a small part. After 1957, however, his figurative paintings were equally as present as his sculptures. His almost monochromatic paintings of his late work do not refer to any other artistic styles of modernity.
Portrait of Alberto-Giacometti (etching by Jan Hladík, 2002)
|Born||10 October 1901|
|Died||11 January 1966 (aged 64)|
Chur, Graubünden, Switzerland
|Education||The School of Fine Arts, Geneva|
|Known for||Sculpture, Painting, Drawing|
|Movement||Surrealism, Expressionism, Cubism, Formalism|
|Awards||"Grand Prize for Sculpture" at 1962 Venice Biennale|
Giacometti was born in Borgonovo, Switzerland, in the canton Graubünden's southerly alpine valley Val Bregaglia near the Italian border, as the eldest of four children of Giovanni Giacometti, a well-known post-Impressionist painter, and Annetta Giacometti-Stampa. He was a descendant of Protestant refugees escaping the inquisition. Coming from an artistic background, he was interested in art from an early age. Alberto attended the Geneva School of Fine Arts. His brothers Diego (1902–1985) and Bruno (1907–2012) would go on to become artists and architects as well. Additionally, Zaccaria Giacometti, later professor of constitutional law and chancellor of the University of Zurich, grew up together with them, having been orphaned at the age of 12 in 1905.
In 1922, he moved to Paris to study under the sculptor Antoine Bourdelle, an associate of Rodin. It was there that Giacometti experimented with Cubism and Surrealism and came to be regarded as one of the leading Surrealist sculptors. Among his associates were Miró, Max Ernst, Picasso, Bror Hjorth, and Balthus.
Between 1936 and 1940, Giacometti concentrated his sculpting on the human head, focusing on the sitter's gaze. He preferred models he was close to—his sister and the artist Isabel Rawsthorne (then known as Isabel Delmer). This was followed by a phase in which his statues of Isabel became stretched out; her limbs elongated. Obsessed with creating his sculptures exactly as he envisioned through his unique view of reality, he often carved until they were as thin as nails and reduced to the size of a pack of cigarettes, much to his consternation. A friend of his once said that if Giacometti decided to sculpt you, "he would make your head look like the blade of a knife".
During WWII Giacometti took refuge in Switzerland. There in 1946 he met Annette Arm, a secretary for the Red Cross; they married in 1949. 
After his marriage his tiny sculptures became larger, but the larger they grew, the thinner they became. For the remainder of Giacometti's life, Annette was his main female model. His paintings underwent a parallel procedure. The figures appear isolated and severely attenuated, as the result of continuous reworking.
Subjects were frequently revisited: one of his favorite models was his younger brother Diego.
In 1958 Giacometti was asked to create a monumental sculpture for the Chase Manhattan Bank building in New York, which was beginning construction. Although he had for many years "harbored an ambition to create work for a public square", he "had never set foot in New York, and knew nothing about life in a rapidly evolving metropolis. Nor had he ever laid eyes on an actual skyscraper", according to his biographer James Lord. Giacometti's work on the project resulted in the four figures of standing women—his largest sculptures—entitled Grande femme debout I through IV (1960). The commission was never completed, however, because Giacometti was unsatisfied by the relationship between the sculpture and the site, and abandoned the project.
In 1962, Giacometti was awarded the grand prize for sculpture at the Venice Biennale, and the award brought with it worldwide fame. Even when he had achieved popularity and his work was in demand, he still reworked models, often destroying them or setting them aside to be returned to years later. The prints produced by Giacometti are often overlooked but the catalogue raisonné, Giacometti – The Complete Graphics and 15 Drawings by Herbert Lust (Tudor 1970), comments on their impact and gives details of the number of copies of each print. Some of his most important images were in editions of only 30 and many were described as rare in 1970.
In his later years Giacometti's works were shown in a number of large exhibitions throughout Europe. Riding a wave of international popularity, and despite his declining health, he traveled to the United States in 1965 for an exhibition of his works at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. As his last work he prepared the text for the book Paris sans fin, a sequence of 150 lithographs containing memories of all the places where he had lived.
Giacometti died in 1966 of heart disease (pericarditis) and chronic bronchitis at the Kantonsspital in Chur, Switzerland. His body was returned to his birthplace in Borgonovo, where he was interred close to his parents.
With no children, Annette Giacometti became the sole holder of his property rights. She worked to collect a full listing of authenticated works by her late husband, gathering documentation on the location and manufacture of his works and working to fight the rising number of counterfeited works. When she died in 1993, the Fondation Giacometti was set up by the French state.
In May 2007 the executor of his widow's estate, former French foreign minister Roland Dumas, was convicted of illegally selling Giacometti's works to a top auctioneer, Jacques Tajan, who was also convicted. Both were ordered to pay €850,000 to the Alberto and Annette Giacometti Foundation.
Regarding Giacometti's sculptural technique and according to the Metropolitan Museum of Art: "The rough, eroded, heavily worked surfaces of Three Men Walking (II), 1949, typify his technique. Reduced, as they are, to their very core, these figures evoke lone trees in winter that have lost their foliage. Within this style, Giacometti would rarely deviate from the three themes that preoccupied him—the walking man; the standing, nude woman; and the bust—or all three, combined in various groupings."
In a letter to Pierre Matisse, Giacometti wrote: "Figures were never a compact mass but like a transparent construction". In the letter, Giacometti writes about how he looked back at the realist, classical busts of his youth with nostalgia, and tells the story of the existential crisis which precipitated the style he became known for.
"[I rediscovered] the wish to make compositions with figures. For this I had to make (quickly I thought; in passing), one or two studies from nature, just enough to understand the construction of a head, of a whole figure, and in 1935 I took a model. This study should take, I thought, two weeks and then I could realize my compositions...I worked with the model all day from 1935 to 1940...Nothing was as I imagined. A head, became for me an object completely unknown and without dimensions."
Since Giacometti achieved exquisite realism with facility when he was executing busts in his early adolescence, Giacometti's difficulty in re-approaching the figure as an adult is generally understood as a sign of existential struggle for meaning, rather than as a technical deficit.
Giacometti was a key player in the Surrealist art movement, but his work resists easy categorization. Some describe it as formalist, others argue it is expressionist or otherwise having to do with what Deleuze calls "blocs of sensation" (as in Deleuze's analysis of Francis Bacon). Even after his excommunication from the Surrealist group, while the intention of his sculpting was usually imitation, the end products were an expression of his emotional response to the subject. He attempted to create renditions of his models the way he saw them, and the way he thought they ought to be seen. He once said that he was sculpting not the human figure but "the shadow that is cast".
Scholar William Barrett in Irrational Man: A Study in Existential Philosophy (1962), argues that the attenuated forms of Giacometti's figures reflect the view of 20th century modernism and existentialism that modern life is increasingly empty and devoid of meaning. "All the sculptures of today, like those of the past, will end one day in pieces...So it is important to fashion one's work carefully in its smallest recess and charge every particle of matter with life."
Giacometti's work has been the subject of numerous solo exhibitions including Pera Museum, Istanbul (2015) Pushkin Museum, Moscow (2008); “The Studio of Alberto Giacometti: Collection of the Fondation Alberto et Annette Giacometti”, Centre Pompidou, Paris (2007–2008); Kunsthal Rotterdam (2008); Fondation Beyeler, Basel (2009), Buenos Aires (2012); Kunsthalle Hamburg (2013), and the High Museum of Art, Atlanta (1970).
The National Portrait Gallery, London's first solo exhibition of Giacometti's work, Pure Presence opened to five star reviews on 13 October 2015 (to January 10, 2016, in honour of the fiftieth anniversary of the artist's death).
Giacometti's work is displayed in numerous public collections, including:
The Fondation Alberto et Annette Giacometti, having received a bequest from Alberto Giacometti's widow Annette, holds a collection of circa 5,000 works, frequently displayed around the world through exhibitions and long-term loans. A public interest institution, the Foundation was created in 2003 and aims at promoting, disseminating, preserving and protecting Alberto Giacometti's work.
In November 2000 a Giacometti bronze, Grande Femme Debout I, sold for $14.3 million. Grande Femme Debout II was bought by the Gagosian Gallery for $27.4 million at Christie's auction in New York City on May 6, 2008.
L'Homme qui marche I, a life-sized bronze sculpture of a man, became one of the most expensive works of art and the most expensive sculpture ever sold at auction on February 2, 2010, when it sold for £65 million (US$104.3 million) at Sotheby's, London. Grande tête mince, a large bronze bust, sold for $53.3 million just three months later.
L'Homme au doigt (Pointing Man) sold for $126 million (£81,314,455.32), or $141.3 million with fees, in Christie's May 11, 2015 Looking Forward to the Past sale in New York, a record for a sculpture at auction. The work had been in the same private collection for 45 years.
In 2001 he was included in the Painting the Century: 101 Portrait Masterpieces 1900–2000 exhibition held at the National Portrait Gallery, London.
According to a lecture by Michael Peppiatt at Cambridge University on July 8, 2010, Giacometti, who had a friendship with author/playwright Samuel Beckett, created a tree for the set of a 1961 Paris production of Waiting for Godot.
The 2003 Epsom Derby was a horse race which took place at Epsom Downs on Saturday 7 June 2003. It was the 224th running of the Derby, and it was won by Kris Kin. The winner was ridden by Kieren Fallon and trained by Sir Michael Stoute. The pre-race favourite Refuse To Bend finished thirteenth.Augusto Giacometti
Augusto Giacometti (16 August 1877 – 9 June 1947) was a Swiss painter from Stampa, Graubünden, cousin of Giovanni Giacometti who was the father of Alberto, Diego and Bruno Giacometti. He was a prominent as a painter in the Art Nouveau and Symbolism movements, for his work in stained glass, as a proponent of murals and a designer of popular posters.
He finished (among others) stained glass windows in both of the most important churches of Zürich, Grossmünster and Fraumünster, as well as the inner decoration of the so-called Waisenhaus Zürich.
From 1909 to 1913 Augusto Giacometti was a great inspiration for Czech born sculptor Helen Zelezny-Scholz.
A two-day hiking trail connects most of the locations of the family in Val Bregaglia.Berggruen Museum
The Berggruen Museum (also known as the Berggruen Collection) is a collection of modern art classics in Berlin, which the collector and dealer Heinz Berggruen, in a "gesture of reconciliation", gave to his native city. The most notable artists on display include Pablo Picasso, Giambattista Pittoni, Alberto Giacometti, Georges Braque, Paul Klee and Henri Matisse. The Berggruen Collection is part of the National Gallery of Berlin.Bruno Giacometti
Bruno Giacometti (24 August 1907 – 21 March 2012) was a Swiss architect and the brother of the artists Alberto and Diego Giacometti. He was among the most notable post-World War II architects in Switzerland.Giacometti was born in Stampa. After studies with Otto Salvisberg and Karl Moser at the ETH Zurich, he worked as an architect in Zurich, initially for Karl Egender. There, he designed the Hallenstadion (1939) and the hygiene and pharmacology institutes of the University of Zurich (1960) among others. His other main works include the Swiss pavilion at the Venice Biennale in 1952, the schools of Brusio (1962), the Uster town hall (1965) and the Chur natural history museum (1982).Giacometti was married to Odette Duperret from 1935 until her death in February 2007. He lived in Zollikon near Zürich until his death at the age of 104 in March 2012.Diego Giacometti
Diego Giacometti (15 November 1902 – 15 July 1985) was a Swiss sculptor and designer, and the younger brother of the sculptor Alberto Giacometti.Fanny Brennan
Fanny Brennan (1921–2001) was a French-American surrealist painter. She was born in Paris, and educated in the United States and Europe, enrolling in art school in France in 1938. When war began, she went to New York. In 1941 the Wakefield Bookshop gallery run by Betty Parsons included her in two shows. She also worked for Harpers Bazaar and the Metropolitan Museum of Art. In 1944, the Office of War Information hired her to work in Europe. For almost twenty years after the births of her children she ceased painting, not beginning again until 1970. Starting in 1973, she had three solo exhibitions with Betty Parsons, and then some with Coe Kerr Gallery. A book of her work, called Skyshades, was published in 1990, and had an introduction by Calvin Tomkins.Her paintings were typically three or four inches across, and frequently combined domestic objects such as buttons with landscapes.Her portrait was drawn by Alberto Giacometti, and she met Pablo Picasso and Tristan Tzara during her life.Fondation Alberto et Annette Giacometti
The Fondation Alberto et Annette Giacometti is a leading French public utility institution created by a French Ministry of Culture decree of December 2003.Its purpose is the promotion, dissemination, preservation and protection of the works of Alberto Giacometti. It is headquartered in Paris. It is headed by Catherine Grenier, Chief Heritage Curator, French Ministry of Culture.
The Foundation holds the world's largest collection of Giacometti's works: 95 paintings, 260 bronze sculptures, 550 plaster sculptures, and thousands of drawings and engravings. The Foundation also holds a large archive giving background to the artist's creations: numerous notebooks and sketchbooks, manuscripts for published texts, correspondence with other artists and intellectuals, as well as a large part of his private library, including reviews, books, exhibition catalogues, and newspapers, some of which have his annotations or drawings. It aims at establishing a comprehensive catalogue of the artist's works from the records started by his widow. It also organises exhibitions of works from its collection, and provides short and long-term loans to major museums and cultural institutions. The premises housing the collection are not open to the general public, however the entire collection is progressively being made available online.Fondation Maeght
The Maeght Foundation or Fondation Maeght (pronounced [mɑɡ]) is a museum of modern art on the Colline des Gardettes, a hill overlooking Saint-Paul de Vence in the southeast of France about 25 km (16 mi) from Nice. It was established by Marguerite and Aimé Maeght in 1964 and houses paintings, sculptures, collages, ceramics and all forms of modern art.The collection includes works by many important 20th-century artists including Jean Arp, Pierre Bonnard, Georges Braque, Alexander Calder, Marc Chagall, Sam Francis, Alberto Giacometti, Wassily Kandinsky, Ellsworth Kelly, Fernand Léger and Joan Miró among others.The building was designed by the Spanish architect Josep Lluís Sert, houses more than 12,000 pieces of art and attracts "on average, 200,000 visitors ... every year". There is a small chapel dedicated to Saint Bernard, in memory of Bernard, the son of Aimé and Marguerite Maeght who died of leukemia, aged eleven. The foundation is entirely independently funded with no reliance on state subsidies. Adrien Maeght is the chairman of the foundation's administrative council, which also includes Isabelle Maeght and her sister Yoyo Maeght.Grande tête mince
Grande tête mince is a bronze sculpture by Alberto Giacometti. The work was conceived in 1954 and cast the following year. Auctioned in 2010, Grande tête mince became one of the most valuable sculptures ever sold when it fetched $53.3 million.Isabel Nicholas
Isabel Rawsthorne, also known as Isabel Lambert, (1912 – 1992) was a British painter, designer and occasional artists' model. During the war she worked in Black Propaganda. She was intimate with many members of the artistic bohemian society in which she flourished, including Jacob Epstein, Alberto Giacometti and Francis Bacon, and was married three times; to the journalist Sefton Delmer, and to the composers Constant Lambert and Alan Rawsthorne.Jean Soldini
Jean Soldini (born 13 March 1956 in Lugano) is a Swiss and French philosopher, art historian and poet.Kunsthalle Bern
The Kunsthalle Bern is a Kunsthalle (art exposition hall) on the Helvetiaplatz in Bern, Switzerland.
It was built in 1917–1918 by the Kunsthalle Bern Association and opened on October 5, 1918. Since then, it has been the site of numerous expositions of contemporary art. The Kunsthalle gained international renown with expositions by artists such as Paul Klee, Christo, Alberto Giacometti, Henry Moore, Jasper Johns, Sol LeWitt, Gregor Schneider, Bruce Nauman and Daniel Buren, and with thematic expositions such as Harald Szeemann's Live In Your Head: When Attitudes Become Form (1969).On the occasion of its 50th anniversary the Kunsthalle Bern became the first building ever to be wrapped entirely by Christo and Jeanne-Claude in July 1968.L'Homme au doigt
L'Homme au doigt (Pointing Man or Man Pointing) is a 1947 bronze sculpture by Alberto Giacometti, that became the most expensive sculpture ever when it sold for US$141.3 million on 11 May 2015.Giacometti made six casts of the work plus one artist's proof. Pointing Man is in the collections of New York's Museum of Modern Art London's Tate Gallery, and the Des Moines Art Center. One of the others is also in a museum, and the rest are in foundation collections or owned privately.L’homme au doigt sold for $126 million, or $141.3 million with fees, in Christie's 11 May 2015 Looking Forward to the Past sale in New York, a record for a sculpture at auction. The work had been in Sheldon Solow's private collection for 45 years.Christie's called it a "rare masterpiece", and "Giacometti’s most iconic and evocative sculpture", and estimated that it would sell "in the region of $130 million". Christie's also noted that the cast in their auction is believed to be the only one that Giacometti "painted by hand in order to heighten its expressive impact".Another Giacometti work, L'Homme qui marche I, had also been the most expensive sculpture ever sold at auction, when it sold for £65 million (US$104.3 million) at Sotheby's, London on 2 February 2010.L'Homme qui marche I
L’Homme qui marche I (The Walking Man I or The Striding Man I, lit. The Man who Walks I) is the name of any one of the cast bronze sculptures that comprise six numbered editions plus four artist proofs created by Swiss sculptor Alberto Giacometti in 1961. On 3 February 2010, the second edition of the cast of the sculpture became one of the most expensive works of art ever sold at auction, and which is sold for about $104.3 million the most expensive sculpture, until May 2015, when another Giacometti work, L'Homme au doigt, surpassed it.Large Standing Woman I
Large Standing Woman I (French: Grande femme debout I) is a bronze sculpture created by Alberto Giacometti in 1960.
The outdoor sculpture is installed in the Lillie and Hugh Roy Cullen Sculpture Garden of the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, located in Houston, Texas.Monumental Head
Monumental Head is a 1960 bronze sculpture by Alberto Giacometti, installed at the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden in Washington, D.C., in the United States. The abstract work measures 37 x 11 3/4 x 14 3/4 inches and depicts a roughly modeled head with an extended neck.Ombra della sera
Ombra della sera (Italian for "Shadow of the evening") is an Etruscan statue from the town of Velathri, later Volterra. It was first depicted in a 1737 collection of Etruscan antiquities. Similarities to the work of modern artist Alberto Giacometti have been frequently observed.The Palace at 4 a.m.
The Palace at 4 a.m. is a 1932 surrealist sculpture by Alberto Giacometti. It is in the collection of the Museum of Modern Art.Giacometti said the work relates to "a period of six months passed in the presence of a woman who, concentrating all life in herself, transported my every moment into a state of enchantment. We constructed a fantastical palace in the night—a very fragile palace of matches. At the least false movement a whole section would collapse. We always began it again."Tête qui regarde
Tête qui regarde also known as Gazing Head is a 1928–29 sculpture by Alberto Giacometti. It has been described as Giacometti's first truly original work. The Cubist sculpture is a simplified, abstracted bust of a human head, inspired by primitive art and archaeological specimens: parallels have been drawn with the features of human figurines in Cycladic art. The head is flattened into an irregular quadrilateral plaque with slightly curving sides, which rests on an integral pedestal and base. The plate has two shallow elliptical depressions, a deeper vertical along the left edge and a shallower horizontal one inside the top edge, interpreted as the nose and an eye.
Copies of the sculpture were made in terracotta, plaster, marble, and bronze. A small preliminary terracotta version, with the vertical depression to the right rather than the left, measures 4.21 in × 3.42 in × 1.69 in (10.7 cm × 8.7 cm × 4.3 cm). Different plaster and bronze copies of the full-size sculpture have slightly different measurements, all around 40 cm × 36.5 cm × 6.5 cm (15.7 in × 14.4 in × 2.6 in).
Giacometti had been working on portraits of his father Giovanni in 1927 before moving on to Tête qui regarde. Early examples were made in 1928, and the sculpture was first exhibited beside works of Massimo Campigli at the Jeanne Bucher Gallery in Paris in 1929. A plaster copy was bought by Charles de Noailles, bringing Giacometti into a circle of Surrealists that included André Masson, André Breton, Jacques Prévert, Yves Tanguy, Robert Desnos, Raymond Queneau, Michel Leiris, and Georges Bataille. Bronzes were cast in 1956.
Examples are held in several public collections, with a marble example held by the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam, and a plaster example at the Fondation Giacometti in Paris. The Museum of Modern Art in New York has a plaster model and a cast from a series of six bronzes.
A plaster example was the subject of an episode of the BBC television programme, Fake or Fortune? in 2018.