Alberto Giacometti

Only reality interests me.

The object of art is not to reproduce reality, but to create a reality of the same intensity.

It is impossible to do a thing the way I see it because the closer I get the more differently I see.

When I see a head from a great distance, it ceases to be a sphere and becomes an extreme confusion falling down into the abyss.

The head is what matters. The rest of the body plays the part of antennae making life possible for people and life itself is inside the skull.

Once the object has been constructed, I have a tendency to discover in it, transformed and displaced, images, impressions, facts which have deeply moved me.

When I make my drawings... the path traced by my pencil on the sheet of paper is, to some extent, analogous to the gesture of a man groping his way in the darkness.

It was never my intention to paint only with gray. But in the course of my work I have eliminated one color after another, and what has remained is gray, gray, gray.

In every work of art the subject is primordial, whether the artist knows it or not. The measure of the formal qualities is only a sign of the measure of the artist's obsession with his subject; the form is always in proportion to the obsession.

Artistically, I am still a child with a whole life ahead of me to discover and create.

I don't know if I work in order to do something, or in order to know why I can't do what I want to do.

Basically, I no longer work for anything but the sensation I have while working.

All I can do will only ever be a faint image of what I see and my success will always be less than my failure or perhaps equal to the failure.


Alberto Giacometti was born in Stampa on October 10, 1901 the first of Annetta and Giovanni's four children. Stampa is a village situated in a mountain region called Bergell, located between the Alpine passes of Maloja and Castasegna. Geographically turned towards Italy, it oriented itself towards the north because of the Protestantism of its inhabitants.
Originally from a modest family from central Italy, the Giacomettis were already rich when Alberto was born. His grandfather had married into a wealthy Bergell family. His father followed in the grandfather's footsteps and married the daughter of the richest family in the valley.
The Giacomettis were a dynamic family. Alberto's grandfather was a confectioner who emigrated first to Warsaw (Poland) and then to Bergamo (Italy), where he successfully run a coffee-house. He returned to Stampa as a rich man.
Alberto's father, Giovanni Giacometti, was already a successful neo-Impressionist painter when he was born. In 1908, he exhibited alongside Vincent van Gogh, Cuno Amiet and Hans Emmenegger at Zurich's Künstlerhaus. Incidentally, Alberto's godfather was Cuno Amiet, his brother Diego's godfather was the eminent Swiss painter Ferdinand Hodler.
Giovanni Giacometti encouraged his son's artistic ambitions. Alberto finished his first all drawings in 1913 and his first plasticine sculpture the following year. In 1915, he enrolled in the Evangelic Academy in Schiers. His earliest surviving oil painting, dated 1915, shows that his style was entirely academic as well as his admiration for Cézanne.
In 1919, Alberto left the school in Schiers and moved to Geneva where he first studied at the Ecole des beaux-arts and then at the Ecole des arts industriels.
After travels to the Venice Biennale and Padua with his father and later alone to Rome and Florence in 1920 and 1921, Alberto, at the suggestion of his father, moved to Paris to study life drawing and sculpture with Antoine Bourdelle at the Académie de la Grande Chaumière. Giacometti later wrote about the limits of the academy: “I realized that my vision changed daily. Either I saw a volume or I saw the figure as a blob, or I saw a detail or I saw the whole. given that the models only posed for a very limited period, they left even before I had begun to capture anything at all.”
The young Giacometti suffered from homesickness. He spent a lot of time in 1922 in Stampa and only returned to Paris in autumn to study seriously, encouraged by his father who was wise enough to realize that his son had to remain in the capital of the arts of his time to become a great artist, something Giovanni Giacometti, despite his success, thought not to have achieved. In that period, influenced by Egyptian art, Alberto made numerous plaster sculptures of which only few have survived.
In 1925, Alberto exhibited his works of art for the first time at the Salon des Tuileries. He realized that it was impossible for him to create painting and sculptures exactly the way he saw them and that he had “to abandon the real.” For ten years, he created from memory “on the fringes of truth.”
In 1926, Alberto moved into the studio at no. 46 rue Hippolyte-Maindron in Paris, where he would work the rest of his life. The following year, his interest in Cubism and non-European indigenous art was reflected in his sculpture Femme cuillère. In 1928-29, he had regular exhibitions in Paris and became acquainted with André Breton and the Surrealists, André Masson, Hans Arp, Alexander Calder, Max Ernst, Joan Miró as well as the writers Jacques Prévert and Georges Bataille.
In the catalogue, Michiko Kono also describes what Alberto's family members did. Let's just mention that Diego and Alberto started to collaborate more closely together in 1929, with Diego assisting his brother. Diego put his ambitions as a painter on hold to concentrate instead on making armatures and learning the techniques of casting and patination. In tune with Surrealism, Alberto appreciated the unintentional and the imperfect offered by the self-taught Diego, while giving him at the same time precise instructions. Diego later worked for interior designers, including Jean-Michel Frank, for whom his younger sister Ottilia weaved textile items in Switzerland.
Alberto in the meantime followed his interests in Surrealism and was inspired by dreams, the workings of chance, political and sexual objects, as Michiko Kono points out and the works published in the catalogue document.
In 1932 followed Alberto's first solo exhibition at the Galerie Pierre Colle in Paris, with Pablo Picasso attending the vernissage. The same year, Giacometti participated in the Venice Biennale.
After his father's death in 1933, Alberto spent most of his time in Switzerland. He returned to Paris in December 1934 and, the following year, broke with the Surrealists. He turned to academic subjects including portraits, nudes, still lives, landscapes and interiors.
Alberto later said that each morning from 1935 to 1940, Diego sat for him as a model. Alberto could only see details but not his brother's head as a whole. Therefore, he made him go further and further away from him. The result were smaller and smaller sculptures. The more Alberto looked as his models, the less clearly he could see them. He became terrified of the disappearance of things.
In 1936, the Museum of Modern Art in New York City was the first art institution to buy one of Alberto's works of art (Le palais à 4 heures du matin, a Surrealist work made in 1932, oil and graphite on card, included in the catalogue and part of the Fondation Alberto et Annette Giacometti in Paris).
From 1942 to 1945, Alberto could not return to Nazi occupied Paris and stayed in neutral Switzerland. Diego remained alone in Paris and took care of Alberto's atelier and works. Nothing was destructed or confiscated.
In October 1943, Alberto met his future wife Annette Arm in Geneva. She followed him to Paris in 1946; they married in 1949.
In 1947, in preparation of his exhibition at the gallery of Pierre Matisse in New York, Alberto Giacometti entered a highly productive phase. Annette was his principal female model. He experiments with fragmentation. Jean-Paul Sartre, whom Alberto had met together with Simone Beauvoir in 1941, provides the introduction The search for the absolute to the catalogue of his 1948 exhibition at the Pierre Matisse Gallery. It was Alberto's first solo exhibition since 1934.
According to biographer James Lord, the encounter between Giacometti and Sartre in 1941 and their regular subsequent meetings were fruitful for both artists. Sartre considered Giacometti's characteristic post-war sculptures - first exhibited in New York in 1948 - an expression of his Existentialism. In New York, Giacometti not only rose to fame, he also met the influential art critic David Sylvester and his later biographer James Lord. The latter later stressed the importance of the Phenomenology, which Alberto had studied in Geneva, for the new fragile sculptures.
As a crucial experience (Schlüsselerlebnis) for his new art, Alberto described a visit to a Paris cinema after the war, when he discerned just undefined black spots instead of a person. When he entered the Boulevard Montparnasse afterwards, his perception of the world, of the depth of space, things, colors and silence had changed. He began to see human heads in void, an emptiness, in the space surrounding them. The heads became immobile. The living seemed dead to him.
In 1949, London's Tate Gallery purchased his 1947-sculpture L'homme qui pointe (also documented in the catalogue of the Beyeler exhibition). Alberto's commercial success came with his second New York exhibition in November 1950, where all his large sculptures made in recent years were shown and sold. In addition, paintings and drawings were exhibited and sold too.
Alberto continued his modest lifestyle, whereas his wife Annette wanted to enjoy the fruits of his labor and bought a flat. This was the beginning of their slowly growing discord. He remained an artistic searcher who never found what he was looking for.
In 1951 followed Alberto's first solo exhibition at the Galerie Maeght in Paris. Francis Ponge devoted an essay to him in the Cahiers de l'art , illustrated with photographs by the Swiss Ernst Scheidegger. Giacometti's rugged facial features became a favorite motif of many leading photographers, including Robert Doisneau, Arnold Newman, Inge Morath, Henri Cartier-Bresson and Irving Penn.
The subsequent exhibitions are too many to be mentioned here. In 1956, a Japanese friend started to sit for Alberto all day. In the evenings, he painted him. “The better it went, the more he disappeared. on the day he left”, Alberto told him, “If I do another line, the picture will disappear altogether.”
In 1958, Alberto met the 22-year-old Caroline, who would pose for him from 1960 to 1965. From February 1959 to spring 1960, he devoted an entire year to a monumental sculpture outside the Chase Manhattan Bank in New York City. Alberto has casts made of the sculptures for the project. They do not fulfill his expectations and he abandons the project altogether. He does however produce four large female figures, a monumental head and two walking men, which are released as independent sculptures.
In 1963, Alberto underwent a stomach cancer operation in Paris. He continues to work, exhibit, receive awards and accolades. While visiting the Chase Manhattan Bank in New York in 1965, he reportedly said that he would like to take up the monumental project again.
On January 11, 1966 suffering from a chronic bronchitis, Alberto Giacometti died from a heart attack at the Cantonal Hospital in Chur, Switzerland. He was buried at Bogonovo Cemetery where his parents lie too. In 1972, his surviving wife Annette left the rue Hippolyte-Maindron studio at the owner's request. The building no longer exists. Annette died in 1993 and was buried at the Père-Lachaise Cemetery in Paris. Her plan to entrust a foundation with her husband's estate, archives and the material she had collected for the catalogue raisonné came to fruition with the establishment of the Foundation Alberto and Annette Giacometti in 2003.
The catalogue with large scale reproductions: Giacometti, Hatje Cantz Verlag, 2009, 224 pages, 194 photos.

BOLA SUSPENDIDA. La Bola suspendida (1931) es una escultura construida como una jaula abierta de barras de hierro en cuyo interior se encuentra una esfera con una hendidura y colgada de una cuerda que roza, con un vaivén, la arista afilada de una pieza semirrecostada en forma de media luna o de gajo de naranja. Existen dos versiones, una realizada en madera y otra en escayola.
Esta obra inaugura la incursión de Alberto Giacometti en el universo del objeto surrealista. Su descubrimiento causa un pequeño cataclismo en el seno de dicha corriente artística. Será André Bretón quien la descubrirá en la galería Pierre Loeb de París, y su posterior compra será la responsable de la amistad entre ambos. La obra llega en un momento de inflexión de la poética surrealista, que evoluciona desde la exploración del universo interior, en los años veinte (los sueños, la locura, las experiencias hipnóticas) hasta el descubrimiento del universo real o inventado de los objetos, hacia 1930. En uno de los primeros números de la revista El surrealismo al servicio de la Revolución, en 1931, Giacometti daba cuenta del magnetismo inquietante con que le hechizaban los objetos: “Todas las cosas… las que están cerca, y lejos, todas las que han pasado y las futuras, las que se mueven, mi amigas, cambian (se pasa junto a ellas, se apartan), otras se acerca, suben, descienden, patos en el agua, aquí y allá, en el espacio, suben y bajan…”
En el curso de los años 30, Giacometti insiste en el hecho de que la escultura que realizaba no tenían las huellas de su manipulación, ni de su impronta física ni de sus cálculos estéticos y formales. “Desde hace años”, escribe en 1933, “realizó solamente aquellas esculturas que se ofrecen a mi espíritu ya perfectamente terminadas”. “La realización es solo un trabajo material que, para mí, en todos los casos, no presenta ninguna dificultad. Es casi aburrido. Se tiene en la cabeza y se necesita verla realizada, pero la realización en sí misma es molesta. ¡Si se pudiera hacer realizar por otros sería todavía más satisfactorio! ”Es por eso que hablaba de sus obras como de “proyecciones” que quería ver realizadas pero que no quería fabricar él mismo.
Sin embargo, el aspecto más innovador es la puesta en juego del movimiento real en la obra plástica hasta entonces estática. Esto se debe al hecho de que la bola puede, efectivamente, hacerse oscilar como un péndulo, lo que determina una percepción del trabajo en su forma física concreta y objetiva y no como forma plástica. Según el propio autor: “A pesar de mis esfuerzos, en aquellos tiempos no conseguía realmente tolerar una escultura que se limitase a dar ilusión de movimiento (una pierna que avanza, un brazo levantado, una cabeza que mira de lado). El movimiento podía concebirlo solamente si era real y efectivo, es más, quería dar la sensación de poderlo provocar.” El movimiento es real, y por lo tanto el medio temporal en el que se inscribe es el tiempo real de la experiencia, despojado de todos los límites y, por definición, incompleto. Este recorrido del movimiento real y al mismo tiempo textual es una función del significado del surrealismo en cuanto que se instala simultáneamente en los márgenes del mundo y en su interior, comparte las condiciones temporales, pero se forma bajo la presión de una necesidad interior.
Al poner la bola y la medialuna en el volumen cúbico de una jaula, Giacometti puede jugar con sus dos registros espaciales. Produce así una ambivalencia: confina el objeto en el campo escénico restringido a la jaula, imprimiendo al mismo tiempo un movimiento real; lo inscribe en el espacio del mundo, separándolo de las cosas que lo circundan. La jaula le permite afirmar la particularidad de esta situación y transformar el conjunto en una especie de esfera de cristal impenetrable, fluctuante en el interior del mundo real. Parte del espacio real y al mismo tiempo se separa de él, la bola suspendida y la medialuna abren una fisura en la superficie continua de la realidad. Esta escultura captura una experiencia que hacemos, a veces, estando despiertos, experiencia de discontinuidad que se insinúa entre las diferentes partes del mundo. Esta obra tiene una poderosa capacidad de evocación erótica que se encierra en esa jaula de hierro, en la que el aliciente táctil y pendular es un elemento central, aunque inconsciente. Recluida en un armazón transparente, que acentúa la impresión de aislamiento, la puesta en marcha del objeto produce una violenta emoción que se asocia inmediatamente con la irritante sensación de un deseo incumplido, representando todas las frustraciones des dispositivo amoroso, aunque los elementos masculino y femenino son intercambiables. La descripción de Dalí era muy elocuente: “Una bola de madera horadada por un hueco femenino y suspendida por una fina cuerda de violín pende sobre una media luna cuya arista roza ligeramente la cavidad. El espectador se encuentra instintivamente empujado a hacer deslizar la bola sobre la arista; deslizamiento que, sin embargo, la largura de la cuerda no permite efectuar más que a medias”.

Online resources: 1 , 2 , 3 , 4

1 comment:

SchweizerKunstSammler said...

Giovanni Giacometti und Augusto Giacometti sind grosse Künstler. In Museen sind die meisten der Werke zu finden und zu betrachten. Ich persönlich habe mich in meiner Sammelleidenschaft auf die gesamte Schweizer Kunst eingeschworen und kann bestätigen dass ein großer Gesamtblick auf die Schweizer Kunst doch sehr lohnenswert ist. So finden sich neben Augusto Giacometti und Giovanni Giacometti auch die Werke Félix Vallotton, Cuno Amiet und Carl August Liner. Die sollte man nicht missen. Auf einer Versteigerung bei einer Schweizer Galerie habe ich neulich erst viele Werke der Schweizer Kunst zusammen betrachten und vergleichen können!

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