Alberto GIACOMETTI ( 1902 - 1966 )
Alberto Giacometti was born in Borgonovo, now part of the Swiss municipality of Bregaglia, near the Italian border. He was a descendant of Protestant refugees escaping the inquisition. Alberto attended the Geneva School of Fine Arts. His brothers Diego and Bruno would go on to become artists as well. 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 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. 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. A third brother, Bruno Giacometti, was a noted architect. In 1958, Giacometti was asked to create a monumental sculpture for the Chase Manhattan Bank building in New York, which was beginning construction. Although he had for many years "harbored an ambition to create work for a public square", he "had never set foot in New York, and knew nothing about life in a rapidly evolving metropolis. Nor had he ever laid eyes on an actual skyscraper", according to his biographer James Lord. Giacometti's work on the project resulted in the four figures of standing women—his largest sculptures—entitled "Grande femme debout I through IV" in 1960. The commission was never completed, however, because Giacometti was unsatisfied by the relationship between the sculpture and the site, and abandoned the project. In 1962, Giacometti 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 in 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 Museum of Modern Art in New York. 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 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. Giacometti's work has been the subject of numerous solo exhibitions including most recently at the Pera Museum in Istanbul in 2015, the Pushkin Museum in Moscow in 2008; “The Studio of Alberto Giacometti: Collection of the Fondation Alberto et Annette Giacometti” at Centre Pompidou in Paris from 2007 until 2008; the Kunsthal in Rotterdam in 2008; the Beyeler Foundation in Basel in 2009. The latest notable sale by Alberto Giacometti was the famous "L'Homme au doigt" sculpture was sold for $141.3 million at Christie's Auction in 2015, a record for a sculpture at auction.