Artist of the Week

Posted at 9:41 am on 15th May, 2017

Alberto Giacometti

10 October 1901 – 11 January 1966

Giacometti was a Swiss sculptor, painter, draughtsman and printmaker. He attended the Geneva School of Fine Arts.

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". After his marriage to Annette Arm in 1946 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 and severely attenuated, as the result of continuous reworking. Subjects were frequently revisited: one of his favorite models was his younger brother Diego Giacometti.


Man Pointing 1947

Man Pointing was made very rapidly for Giacometti’s first exhibition in New York. He recalled: ‘I did that piece in one night between midnight and nine the next morning. That is, I’d already done it, but I demolished it and did it all over again because the men from the foundry were coming to take it away. And when they got here, the plaster was still wet.’ It was originally intended to be part of a larger composition, with the left arm positioned loosely around a second figure. Giacometti later abandoned the idea, and considered Man Pointing to be a complete work.

Gallery label, July 2012


Seated Man 1949

Like his sculptures, Giacometti’s portraits emerged from an intense scrutiny of his subjects, and a process of continually reworking the image in order to record his shifting visual impressions. Seated Man depicts his brother Diego, one of Giacometti’s most frequent models, but even this familiar face became an object of investigation and discovery for the artist, who commented ‘When he poses for me I don’t recognise him’.

Gallery label, July 2012