Alberto Giacometti

Alberto Giacometti
Femme assise, 1946
L’homme qui marche sous la pluie, 1948
La cage (première version), 1950
Sculptures, 1950
Intérieur à Stampa, 1951
La rue (Angle de la rue Hippolyte-Maindron et de la rue du Moulin-Vert), 1952
Femme de Venise VIII, 1956
Aïka, 1959
Grande femme III, 1960
Grande femme IV, 1960
Grande tête, 1960
L’homme qui marche II, 1960
Caroline, 1961
Isaku Yanaihara, 1961
Elie Lotar III (assis), 1965
Femme assise, 1946
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Alberto Giacometti
Femme assise, 1946

Seated Woman
Bronze, cast 2/6, Susse Fondeur Paris, 77 x 14.5 x 19 cm
Photo: Peter Schibli, Basel

The disarmingly simple theme of this sculpture is the ‘act’ of sitting, although it is unclear what the woman is actually sitting on, since her legs seem to coincide with those of the chair. This play on the viewer’s expectations and the fragility of the figure, which is reduced to just a few lines in space, lend the work heightened intensity. The bronze cast was made from a wire armature thinly coated in modelled plaster, whose structure is still visible. Supervision of the inordinately difficult processes of casting and patination was one of the great achievements of the artist’s brother, Diego Giacometti, whose part in the technical execution of Alberto’s ideas should not be underestimated.

L’homme qui marche sous la pluie, 1948
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Alberto Giacometti
L’homme qui marche sous la pluie, 1948

Man Walking in the Rain
Bronze, cast 1/6, Alexis Rudier Fondeur Paris, 47.5 x 77.5 x 15.5 cm
Photo: Robert Bayer, Basel

Shortly before and during World War II, Alberto Giacometti became increasingly preoccupied with the relationship between the human figure and the space surrounding it, which eventually threw him into a state of crisis. His sculptures ended up being so small that he could fit them inside a matchbox – if they had not already crumbled between his fingers while he was working on them. One solution he found was to reduce the figure to a simple, essential sign. This not only led Giacometti to evolve the late style for which he became internationally renowned, it also gave him the means of working in various dimensions. The reduced figural sign in this work represents the act of walking – presumably walking briskly through the rain, as the work’s title indicates. The figure is moving across a surface that appears to hover over the massive block-shaped base, merging with it to form a quintessential unity.

La cage (première version), 1950
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Alberto Giacometti
La cage (première version), 1950
The Cage (First Version)Bronze, Fondation Beyeler cast, Susse Fondeur Paris, 91 x 36.5 x 34 cmPhoto: Robert Bayer, Basel
One of the key themes in Giacometti’s art concerns how the figure is anchored in space – not only in terms of its three-dimensional representation but also in the way the surrounding space is formed. The motif of the cage, which had already preoccupied the artist during his Surrealist phase, should therefore not only be regarded as a form of confinement but also as a means of defining a sculpture’s expansion into space, whereby the viewer perceives this from the outside, in other words from within a much larger space.
Sculptures, 1950
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Alberto Giacometti
Sculptures, 1950

Pencil on paper, 63 x 48 cm
Photo: Peter Schibli, Basel

Intérieur à Stampa, 1951
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Alberto Giacometti
Intérieur à Stampa, 1951

Interior in Stampa
Pencil on paper, 50 x 32.5 cm
© ProLitteris, Zürich

La rue (Angle de la rue Hippolyte-Maindron et de la rue du Moulin-Vert), 1952
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Alberto Giacometti
La rue (Angle de la rue Hippolyte-Maindron et de la rue du Moulin-Vert), 1952
The Street (Street Corner of Rue Hippolyte-Maindron and Rue du Moulin-Vert)Oil on canvas, 73 x 54 cmPhoto: Robert Bayer, Basel
Femme de Venise VIII, 1956
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Alberto Giacometti
Femme de Venise VIII, 1956
Woman of Venice VIIIBronze, cast 6/6, Susse Fondeur Paris, 121 x 15.1 x 33.2 cmPhoto: Robert Bayer, Basel
Aïka, 1959
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Alberto Giacometti
Aïka, 1959
Oil on canvas, 92 x 72.8 cmPhoto: Peter Schibli, Basel
The three portraits by Alberto Giacometti in the Fondation Beyeler are typical of his late style of painting. As in the late works of Matisse and Picasso, here too one can observe the artist’s endeavour to create a symbiosis of drawing, painting and sculpture. Aïka Sapone was the (then 15 year-old) daughter of a tailor in Giacometti’s circle of friends. She could only sit for him in the afternoon; at night he would rework what he had done in the daytime and then, over a period of three weeks, modify the results the following day in the presence of the model.
Grande femme III, 1960
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Alberto Giacometti
Grande femme III, 1960

Large Standing Woman III
Bronze, cast 6/6, Susse Fondeur Paris, 237 x 31 x 54 cm
Photo: Robert Bayer, Basel

Grande femme IV, 1960
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Alberto Giacometti
Grande femme IV, 1960

Large Standing Woman IV
Bronze, cast 3/6, Susse Fondeur Paris, 270 x 33 x 58 cm
Photo: Robert Bayer, Basel

Grande tête, 1960
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Alberto Giacometti
Grande tête, 1960

Monumental Head
Bronze, cast 6/6, Susse Fondeur Paris, 95 x 30 x 33 cm
Photo: Robert Bayer, Basel

L’homme qui marche II, 1960
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Alberto Giacometti
L’homme qui marche II, 1960

Walking Man II
Bronze, cast 4/6, Susse Fondeur Paris, 189 x 26 x 110 cm
Photo: Robert Bayer, Basel

The life-size bronze sculpture L’homme qui marche is one of the most important works created by the Swiss painter and sculptor Alberto Giacometti, and featured in four different perspectives on Switzerland’s 100 franc bank-note features four different views of it. The work was created in 1960 in the context of a project for the Chase Manhattan Plaza in New York. Giacometti envisaged placing three to four sculptures – a large head, a walking man and one or two standing women – in the plaza. His idea was to position the figures singly with enough space between them for visitors to be able to become part of the sculptural group. Giacometti ultimately abandoned the project on the grounds that the sculptures did not suit the Chase Manhattan Plaza’s huge size. Several versions of the figures were nonetheless created, four of which – including L’homme qui marche II – now belong to the Beyeler Collection.

Caroline, 1961
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Alberto Giacometti
Caroline, 1961
Oil on canvas, 100 x 82 cmSigned and dated bottom right: Alberto Giacometti 1961Photo: Robert Bayer, Basel
Similar to his sculptures, Alberto Giacometti constantly reworked his portraits – especially the faces –, giving the two-dimensional paintings a plastic expression. It seems he was concerned not so much with capturing the true character of his models; rather, by fully concentrating on the gaze, on the eye contact between the model and the artist/viewer, he gives his subjects an existential presence which far outshines conventional portraiture. Known under the name of Caroline, this lady of the Montparnasse demimonde maintained somewhat obscure relations with Giacometti. He financed her lavish lifestyle and was fascinated by her colourful, hazardous life – and it was probably precisely because of her dubious existence that she stimulated him to find the absolute concentration he needed for artistic work.
Isaku Yanaihara, 1961
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Alberto Giacometti
Isaku Yanaihara, 1961

Oil on canvas, 100 x 81 cm
Photo: Peter Schibli, Basel

Alberto Giacometti’s portraits consist more of lines than of tonal values; his style of painting could in fact be described as extremely condensed drawing. Isaku Yanaihara, a Japanese professor of philosophy and fervent admirer of Giacometti’s work, was blessed with the ability – important for the artist’s way of working – to sit absolutely still, with poise and concentration. His relationship with Giacometti was not without problems; he was also rumoured to have had an affair with the artist’s wife, Annette.

Elie Lotar III (assis), 1965
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Alberto Giacometti
Elie Lotar III (assis), 1965

Portrait of Elie Lotar III (Seated)
Bronze, cast 8/8, Susse Fondeur Paris, 66 x 27.5 x 35 cm
Photo: Robert Bayer, Basel

When Alberto Giacometti, already terminally ill, travelled to Chur in December 1965, where he was to die on 11 January 1966, he left behind in Paris a figure modelled in clay. To stop it drying out he had wrapped it in damp cloths. Following his death, his brother Diego made eight bronze casts of the sculpture, one of which he placed on Alberto’s grave. The photographer and cameraman Elie Lotar belonged to the demimonde milieu of Montparnasse; occasionally he turned to Alberto for financial support. What Giacometti found inspiring about Lotar was his striking bald head and his ability to sit absolutely still. The artist was apparently also fascinated by the challenge of depicting a figure of human failure in a form that is pared back to its barest, essential traits, allowing him to concentrate on the intrinsic nature of the gaze and on the tension-filled repose of sitting.

Alberto Giacometti
Alberto Giacometti
Alberto Giacometti
Alberto Giacometti
Alberto Giacometti

1901, Borgonovo, nr. Stampa (Switzerland) – 1966, Chur The Swiss sculptor, painter and printmaker studied art in Geneva and Paris. By the end of the 1920s he had begun making his first Surrealist sculptures. In the mid-1930s he shifted away from Surrealism and spent the period up to 1945 exploring new forms of representing the figure’s relation to space, a process which was also influenced by his friendship with Picasso and Jean-Paul Sartre. In 1950 his first one-man retrospective was held in Basel. He was first invited to show work at the Venice Biennale in 1956 in the French Pavilion; for his second participation in Venice in 1962 he was awarded the Grand Prize for Sculpture. Further awards he received include the Sculpture Prize at the Carnegie International, Pittsburgh (1961), the New York Guggenheim Prize for Painting (1964) and an honorary doctorate from the University of Bern (1965).

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