Photo by Henri Cartier-Bresson.
|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|
Alberto Giacometti (10 October 1901 – 11 January 1966) was a Swiss sculptor, painter, draughtsman, and printmaker. Alberto Giacometti was born in the Italian-speaking part of Switzerland and came from an artistic background; his father, Giovanni, was a well-known Post-Impressionist painter. Alberto was the eldest of four children and was always especially close to the brother nearest to him in age, Diego. From the beginning, he was interested in art.
Giacometti was born in Borgonovo, now part of the Swiss municipality of Stampa, near the Italian border. His father, Giovanni Giacometti, was a painter. Alberto attended the School of Fine Arts in Geneva. In 1922 he moved to Paris to study under the sculptor Antoine Bourdelle, an associate of Auguste 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 Joan Miró, Max Ernst, Pablo Picasso 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 brother and the artist Isabel Rawsthorne (then known as Isabel Delmer). This was followed by a unique artistic phase in which his statues of Isabel became stretched out; her limbs elongated. Obsessed with creating his sculptures exactly as he envisaged 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." After his marriage to Annette Arm his tiny sculptures became larger, but the larger they grew, the thinner they became. Giacometti said that the final result represented the sensation he felt when he looked at a woman.
His paintings underwent a parallel procedure. The figures appear isolated, are severely attenuated, and are the result of continuous reworking. Subjects were frequently revisited: one of his favorite models was his younger brother Diego Giacometti. A third brother Bruno Giacometti is a Swiss architect.
In 1962, he 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 travelled to the United States in 1965 for an exhibition of his works at the New York Museum of Modern Art. 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. In May 2007 the executor of his widow's estate, French foreign minister Roland Dumas, was convicted of illegally selling Giacometti's works to a top auctioneer. The auctioneer, Jacques Tajan, was also convicted. Both were ordered to pay €850,000 to the Alberto and Annette Giacometti Foundation.
Giacometti was a key player in the Surrealist 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." His figures resembled the way he looked upon himself.
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 devoid of meaning and empty. "All the sculptures of today, like those of the past, will end one day in pieces... So it is important to fashion ones work carefully in its smallest recess and charge every particle of matter with life."
Giacometti's work is displayed in numerous public collections, including the:
- Tate in London
- Kunsthaus Zürich
- Museum of Modern Art in New York
- Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
- Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum
- National Gallery of Art in Washington D.C.
- Art Institute of Chicago
- Los Angeles County Museum of Art
- University of Michigan Museum of Art
- Carnegie Museum of Art, in Pittsburgh
- Albright-Knox Art Gallery in Buffalo
- Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, in Denmark
- Bechtler Museum of Modern Art, in Charlotte, North Carolina
- J. Paul Getty Museum, in Los Angeles, California
- Bündner Kunstmuseum, in Chur
Grande Femme Debout I
Grande Femme Debout II
L'Homme Qui Marche I
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 3, 2010 when it sold for £65 million (US$104.3 million) at Sotheby's, London.
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 Dr. Michael Peppiatt in a lecture 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".
- New York Times article on The Women of Giacometti exhibition, Pace Wildenstein Gallery 2005 
- Tate Collection: Seated Man by Alberto Giacometti Retrieved July 13, 2007.
- "Conviction Upheld Against Former French FM in Giacometti Fraud". May 10, 2007. Retrieved 2008-04-16.
- "Art record Picasso painting goes for £39m at auction". The Guardian. London. 2000-11-10. Retrieved 2010-04-23.
- Afp.google.com, Monet fetches record price at New York auction
- http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/8497287.stm Giacometti sculpture fetches £65m at Sotheby's auction
- Alberto Giacometti's Walking Man I Sells for a Record-Breaking $104,327,006 at Sotheby's
- Robert Whelan, "Robert Capa, the definitive collection", p8, Phaidon press 2001 ISBN 978-0-7148-4449-7
- Schweizer Nationalbank
- Jacques Dupin (1962) "Alberto Giacometti", Paris, Maeght
- Reinhold Hohl (1971) "Alberto Giacometti", Stuttgart: Gerd Hatje
- Die Sammlung der Alberto Giacometti-Stiftung (1990), Zürich, Zürcher Kunstgesellschaft
- Alberto Giacometti. Sculptures - peintures - dessins. Paris, Musée d'art moderne de la Ville de Paris, 1991-92.
- Jean Soldini (1993) "Alberto Giacometti. Le colossal, la mère, le sacré", Lausanne, L'Age d'Homme
- David Sylvester (1996) Looking at Giacometti, Henry Holt & Co.
- Alberto Giacometti 1901-1966. Kunsthalle Wien, 1996
- James Lord (1997) Giacometti: A Biography, Farrar, Straus and Giroux* Alberto Giacometti. Kunsthaus Zürich, 2001; New York, The Museum of Modern Art, 2001-2002.
- Yves Bonnefoy (2006) Alberto Giacometti: A Biography of His Work, New edition, Flammarion
- An Anthology from X (Oxford University Press 1988). X (magazine) ran from 1959-62. Edited by the poet David Wright & the painter Patrick Swift. Apart from contributions from Giacometti X also included painters such as Bacon, Freud, Auerbach, Bomberg, Kokoschka, et al., and writers such as W.H. Auden, Samuel Beckett, et al.
- "Alberto Giacometti". SIKART dictionary and database.
- Works of Alberto Giacometti:
- Life of Alberto Giacometti:
- Chronology of his life with illustrations from the Museum of Modern Art
- Exhibition at Kunsthaus Zürich from 27 February until 24 May 2009