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


Post-WWII Figural Art: Dubuffet-Bacon

"I believe, and in this I am in agreement with reputedly primitive civilizations, that painting, which is more concrete than the written word, is the richest instrument we have for communicating and elaborating thoughts." Dubuffet

Jean Dubuffet, Will to Power (Volonté de puissance), 1946. Oil with pebbles, sand, glass, and rope on canvas, 116.2 x 88.9 cm. Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York

Dubufet showed interest in Dr. Prinzhorn's collection of the art of the mentally ill, in children's art, in primitive art, and other forms of untutored art, such as "Art Brut" (Raw Art). Dubuffet had his own collection of raw art. He considered that art should communicate through the materials as much as the images. According to Dubuffet, the materials shape the object in the artwork and they are inseparable from its identity. Dubuffet's interest is in the moment when a thought begins to take shape, rather than the completed, unchanging thought; something similar to a dream state, when one experiences imagery and affect without translating them into specific meaning. He deliberately attacked on Western canons of beauty and held that art should not strive to please the eye but to address the soul, it thus doesn't need to be beautiful to do this. In fact, it shouldn't be beautiful.

Two women: one in academic style (Bouguereau, Baigneuse, 1890); the other conceived as "Art Brut" (Dubuffet, La Coiffeuse, 1950).

Dubuffet's earlier paintings are derived from daily or ordinary life events, rendered in a crudely childlike style and suggestive of the uncultivated person as well as of graffiti. Such paintings are characterized by a lack of perspective, distortion of forms, use of primary colors or conversely, the technique of scratching through a black surface to find something underneath.
One then begins to see his ongoing interest in the transformation of materials, such that textures in his paintings begin to become the painting, as figures seem to explode into the background field, even as the outline of the body remains intact. Many of Dubuffet's works of this type use a paste-like ground for the painting, which he made from sand, earth, fixatives, and pigment. Then he scratched into the surface to create the suggestion of drawing. Much later this becomes an obsessive interest in the interlocking and repetitive forms which eventually grow into sculpture and outdoor environments.

In 1959 the exhibition "New Images of Man," curated by Peter Selz, was entirely devoted to figural art. While European artists had begun to address the figure well before the date of this show, Selz claimed that the art in this show was united by an attitude toward life which he called "existential essentialism."
Existential essentialism focuses on the subjectivity of human beings and the sense that, in the end, people are not in control of their destiny. It thus carries an element of pessimism.
Common to the works exhibited was the rejection of abstraction. Their authors believed in a new expression of the human figure and were influenced by surrealist writer Georges Bataille and his notion of the unshaped. "The part of the thought which interests me is not the moment when the thought is crystallized into a formal idea but the stages which precede that crystallization" (Dubuffet).
If anything united the artists who participated in this show, it was the commitment to finding a "new image" of mankind, retaining the human figure in their art work but depicting a human figure which was not the descriptive representation of a person. The artworks were disturbing through the choice and treatment of materials, and also because they entailed "non-descriptive" representations of the human figure.
After decades of evasive abstraction, the rough and grotesque "new images of man" expressed a remarkable return of the repressed.

Francis Bacon, Study after Velazquez's Portrait of Pope Innocent X, 1953, oil on canvas, 153 x 118 cm, Des Moines Art Center

Bacon was also included in this show although he appears to have little in common with an artist like Dubuffet. He should be seen as part of a context which is similar to that of Karel Appel, an artist associated with the CoBrA group (artists from Copenhagen, Brussels and Amsterdam), generally strongly influenced by Dubuffet's attitude toward materials and children's art. What the CoBrA artists shared was a search for a union of order and disorder, of horror and its rejection, of the redirection of modernism away from the assertion of utopia and toward the recognition of horror. Appel was committed to the figure although not all of the CoBrA artists were figurative. Unlike Appel, who quickly moved from painting to sculpture, Bacon remained entirely committed to a painterly tradition of art history. Unlike CoBrA, Bacon does not appear to have been influenced by a belief in the use of childhood "primitivism" as a model or inspiration. Bacon more deliberately turns to artists like Velazquez and Van Gogh, as well as movies by Russian filmmaker Eisenstein. He captures images from all periods of art and uses them to make his own paintings, paintings which often are heavily eroticized and violent in terms of their subject matter but not in terms of an unspoken contract with an artistic tradition. Bacon rejects abstraction because in his eyes, it communicates nothing but an aesthetic of the artist. His dominant and consistent subject is the human face and body, but generally shown in a large, non-environment space, often suggested by a glass or tubular box.

Bacon, Study of a Nude, 1953. Oil on canvas, 61 x 51 cm. Robert and Lisa Sainsbury Collection, University of East Anglia, Norwich

Bacon may be the best representative of the idea of "existential essentialism" because of his goal of expressing the inner reality of the human being. He draws freely on references to art history, to photography, to film, using all of these as equal sources of knowledge about human nature, about the behaviors which people express toward one another, and using them as a type of image library which he feels free to adopt and derange. In that sense, he is like some of the abstract expressionists--de Kooning, in particular, who may be the closest artist to him in terms of his painterly and philosophical goals. But making that comparison does not help to explain the prevailing sense of Bacon's paintings of a human figure screaming into the void. In this sense, Bacon seems very different from de Kooning.

Bacon, Study for a Portrait, 1952. Oil and sand on canvas, 88 x 77 cm. Tate Gallery, London

Despite the many references which can be found in his paintings to other art, and despite some of the anguish his figures share with those of Picasso or Egon Schiele or Chaim Soutine, other artists who were committed to depicting extreme responses of the human body to psychological pain, those artists give us a more subjective and particular instance of human anguish than Bacon does. Bacon couples the psychological sordidness of his figures with a cold, objective glance that perversely acts to eliminate the artist’s subjective presence from these paintings and replaces it with the sense that these are bodies which are so consumed by the existential battle between terror and will that they dispassionately or neutrally proclaim the indivisibility or inseparability of psychic terror from physical existence and they proclaim that this is not the condition of a select few but of the entire human race.

Bacon, Lying Figure in a Mirror, 1971. Oil on canvas, 198.5 x 147.5 cm. Museo de Bellas Artes, Bilbao

In Francis Bacon and the Loss of Self (1992), Ernst van Alphen raises the question about narrative in Bacon’s paintings: Why do we think we see a narrative in Bacon’s paintings? Most of them are triptychs, a format which almost immediately suggests temporal continuity and the development of a story; they have human figures in them, generally in an environment which suggests a space of some sort, so we imagine some interaction between the people in the paintings and the space containing them; and the shapeless forms suggest a cinematic type of movement which once again implies that something has been happening and is changing. Yet, much of what Bacon does contradicts the existence of narrative.
If we begin with the issue of space, the figures are rendered in a coarse application of paint whereas the background is generally quite smooth and finished. The disparity of treatment works against reading the background as anything other than a field of color which generally locks the figure in place, either through the illusion of a cage or cell or through the bright colors which prevent recession. Bacon’s use of the triptych also denies the sense of spatial continuity; unlike traditional triptychs, each panel is generally framed separately, resulting in the suggestion that these are three separate paintings, joined for formal reasons, rather than narrative. Finally, the figures themselves never really assume an identity. We are not given recognizable bodies or faces, and even when two figures ore more are located in the space together, it is difficult to imagine that they are interacting, as opposed to sharing paint.

Bacon, Crucifixion, 1965. Oil on canvas, each panel 198 x 147.5 cm, Staatsgalerie Moderner Kunst, Munich

Bacon has said that he was interested in the narrative as a process, the act of telling the story, rather than the narrative as product: the completed story which has already been told. But Bacon’s bodies seem particularly non-existential as they refuse to engage in any interaction with the viewer. They are too incompletely rendered to be an “other” person; they are fragmented in a way that does not imply taking shape so much as losing identity and losing a sense of wholeness. Alphen suggests that these bodies are the interior mass of sensations, and if they are inner human spaces, then perhaps Bacon’s decision to render the background in a hard, flat surface which contrasts with the figures is a decision which enhances the sense that we are not looking at a person but an interior. This is a figure which is confined and isolated within its interiority; there is no exterior for us to engage. As viewers, then, we are faced with a figure but the figure has no coherent structure to it. Bacon’s figures and environment become one through the suggestion that the figure will absorb the space into itself. But it can only do this by giving up its boundaries and losing its selfhood. Alphen goes on to suggest that this loss of self is not, in the end, a frightening and despairing act because the loss of self implies a reconstruction of self. Since Bacon does not want to represent the story as a finished object, he can only represent this frightening sense of losing definition as a body. But if we follow Bacon’s logic, we can see the loss of boundaries as the beginning step in the creation of new ones.

Bacon, Study from the Human Body, 1981. Oil on canvas, 198 x 147.5 cm. Private collection

The retrospective for the twentieth century figurative painter Francis Bacon on view at the Metropolitan Museum of Art shows Bacon’s belaboring exploration of the grotesque. He is fixated on both religious iconography such as in his paintings inspired by Velazquez, and malformed depictions of enigmatic carcasses.
Though Bacon seems to recycle the same sort of grotesque in his oeuvre to an extent that becomes exhausting there is something still powerful in his poetics of the grotesque. He reminds us of bygone times before the age of the laboratory and medicalization of illness when the temple was a site of ritual killings and sacrifice. As Yve Alain Bois remarks in his essay, “Base Materialism,” on Bataille and the photographer Eli Lotar: We live in an age where the slaughterhouse, just like the madman, is quarantined from everyday life. In his triptych series titled after the T.S. Eliot poem Sweeney Agonistes, Bacon depicts enigmatic fragmented lumps of life matter. The extreme upward tilt of the paintings draws the viewer into the painting, while having the contradictory effect of flattening the picture plane. In portraying such liminal figures that hover between life and death and inserting them between flat and deep space, one confronts the return of the repressed. That which is repressed and sublimated inevitably intrudes as the signified momentarily catches up to and disrupts the signifier. The horror in these works is in their representing the repression of violence. As Bois argues: “To show violence purely and simply would be a way of incorporating it; it is more effective to underscore how it is evacuated.”
Bacon’s painting Blood on Pavement similarly hovers between deep and flat space. The obscure blood stain is a trace of a violence and trauma that remains absent. The horror of Bacon’s imagery lies not in its portrayal of violence, but rather in its undefinability that places the viewer between the sublimation and intrusion of the trauma. It is a horror that remains truly other and resists incorporation and resolution in the quotidian. He reminds us that the comforting sanctity of our daily latte and other objects of commercial consumption is continually haunted by wars, sweatshops, and environmental devastation. Bacon does not naively revel in the violence of the status quo, but rather exposes the ways in which we sublimate and expunge the traces of violence in presenting objects which remain liminal and resist foreclosure. Scott S. Jackson

Jean Dubuffet
Francis Bacon
The Return of the Repressed
The Uncanny
Lo familiar vuelto inquietante

Vincent van Gogh

Van Gogh (1853–1890) was a Dutch post-Impressionist painter whose work had a far-reaching influence on 20th century art for its vivid colors and emotional impact. He suffered from anxiety and increasingly frequent bouts of mental illness throughout his life, and died largely unknown, at the age of 37, from a self-inflicted gunshot wound.
Little appreciated during his lifetime, his fame grew in the years after his death. Today, he is widely regarded as one of history's greatest painters and an important contributor to the foundations of modern art. Van Gogh did not begin painting until his late twenties, and most of his best-known works were produced during his final two years. He produced more than 2,000 artworks, consisting of around 900 paintings and 1,100 drawings and sketches. Although he was little known during his lifetime, his work was a strong influence on the Modernist art that followed. Today many of his pieces—including his numerous self portraits, landscapes, portraits and sunflowers—are among the world's most recognizable and expensive works of art.
Vincent only sold one painting during his lifetime and Van Gogh had a very unhappy life, only became famous after his death.
In his final letter to Theo, Vincent admitted that as he did not have any children, he viewed his paintings as his progeny. Reflecting on this, the historian Simon Schama concluded that he "did have a child of course, Expressionism, and many, many heirs." Schama mentioned a wide number of artists who have adapted elements of Van Gogh's style, including Willem de Kooning, Howard Hodgkin and Jackson Pollock. The French Fauves, including Henri Matisse, extended both his use of color and freedom in applying it,[159] as did German Expressionists in the Die Brücke group. Abstract Expressionism of the 1940s and 1950s is seen as in part inspired from Van Gogh's broad, gestural brush strokes.

Painter on the Road to Tarascon (The Painter on His Way to Work), 1888. Oil on canvas, 48 × 44 cm. Formerly in Magdeburg Museum, destroyed by fire in WWII.

The artist walks to work, carrying his equipment. He is walking among green and yellow fields, with the open sky above him, and hills only visible in the distance. Meanwhile, the sun is high in the sky. The painting reflects the Van Gogh's optimism at the beginning of his stay in Arles, with an idyllic impression of his surroundings at this time.

In 1957, Francis Bacon (1909–1992) based a series of paintings on reproductions of Van Gogh's The Painter on the Road to Tarascon, the original of which was destroyed during World War II. Bacon was inspired by not only an image he described as "haunting", but also Van Gogh himself. Regarding Van Gogh as an alienated outsider, Bacon identified with him. Bacon was also fond of Van Gogh's theories on art and quoted some lines written from a letter to Theo, "Real painters do not paint things as they are... They paint them as they themselves feel them to be" (The Art Newspaper, 2009).

Wheat Field with cypresses, 1889. Oil on canvas, 73 × 92 cm. National Gallery, London

Cottages with Thatched Roofs, Auvers-sur-Oise, June 1890. Oil on canvas. Musée d'Orsay, Paris

Online resources


Of Purpose in 20th-Century Art

Waiting for Godot?

Henri Matisse, Harmony in Red, 1908. Oil on canvas, 80 x 220 cm. Hermitage Museum, St Petersburg

"What I dream of is an art of balance, of purity and serenity devoid of troubling or depressing subject matter — a soothing, calming influence on the mind, rather like a good armchair which provides relaxation from physical fatigue." Matisse


In olden days a glimpse of stocking,
Was thought of as something shocking.
But now, God knows,
Anything goes.

Cole Porter

Marcel Duchamp, The Fountain, 1917. Readymade (urinal). Present whereabouts unknown

Pablo Picasso, The Charnel House, 1944-45. Oil and charcoal on canvas, 199.8 x 250.1 cm. Museum of Modern Art, New York

"What do you think an artist is? An imbecile who only has eyes if he's a painter, ears if he's a musician, or a lyre in every chamber of his heart if he's a poet — or even, if he's a boxer, only some muscles? Quite the contrary, he is at the same time a political being constantly alert to the horrifying, passionate or pleasing events in the world, shaping himself completely in their image. How is it possible to be uninterested in other men and by virtue of what cold nonchalance can you detach yourself from the life that they supply so copiously? No, painting is not made to decorate apartments. It's an offensive and defensive weapon against the enemy." Picasso

Alberto Giacometti, Walking Man, bronze

POST WAR ART IN EUROPE. World War II presented Europe with a major disaster and artists raged at the hypocrisy of society—it's willingness to destroy life in spite of pretensions to humanism and justice. The existentialist writer, Sartre expressed the core philosophy of post-war art movements in Europe: "Man is alone in the world in a metaphysical void... the individual is free to seek his own way." Angst over the brutality of war produced "an anti-aesthetic primitivism" (rather than the cool and absurdist expressions of Dadaists). The approach encouraged the concept of man's inner life as a valid subject, producing an intuitive style. The paintings of Dubuffet feature flat, grotesque figures which express his low regard for conventional standards of beauty and composition (Wheeler).

Francis Bacon, Three Studies for Figures at the Base of a Crucifixion (right-hand panel detail), 1944-45. Tate Gallery, London

"Man now realizes that he is an accident, that he is a completely futile being, that he has to play out the game without reason. […] Painting has now become, or all art has now become, completely a game by which man distracts himself." Bacon

Co Westerik, Schoolmaster and Child (Schoolmeester met kind), Holland, 1961. Oil and tempera on canvas, 88,5 x 110 cm. Gemeentemuseum Den Haag

Quino (Joaquin Salvador Lavado), Untitled, ink on paper.

Danchev about Picasso



Monólogo teatral de Mónica Ottino, presentado en el BAC de Buenos Aires y apreciado también desde ultramar.

"Robespierre es es una alusión teatral de la vida breve e intensa de un joven provinciano quien a partir de su formación como abogado logra ser elegido como miembro de los Estados
Generales antes del estallido de la Revolución Francesa. [Es un trabajo acerca de] Sus penosos antecedentes familiares, su pobreza, sus becas que, irónicamente, le concede el rey; La espiral de violencia, que alcanza a sus más próximos amigos y a él mismo, y una revolución que como el quería "ya no tenía vuelta", pese a los poderosos ejércitos imperiales y monárquicos que amenazan Francia. La "virtud" y la "verdad" [operan] como instrumentos peligrosos en este interesante y discutible personaje."

Maximilien Robespierre y la guillotina.