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(1901 – 1966), Switzerland

Alberto Giacometti Biography

Alberto Giacometti was a Swiss sculptor, painter, draughtsman, and printmaker. His distinctive style and close alignment with the significant art historical and philosophical movements of the time made him one of the most important sculptors of the 20th century. Throughout his life, he was preoccupied with the quest of most accurately representing reality as it is experienced by the individual, drawing on themes of vision, matter, and meaning.

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Giacometti was born in Borgonovo, Switzerland, as the son of a post-Impressionist painter. Encouraged by his family, he moved to Paris in 1922, where he took classes under Antoine Bourdelle, himself a student of Auguste Rodin. During this period he was exposed to the avantgarde currents of Cubism and Surrealism. His abstracted, dream-like sculpture Gazing Head (1928–1929) exemplified his interest in the representation of inner experiences, such as dreams and memories, and resulted in his induction into the Surrealist inner circle.

From 1935, Giacometti became increasingly preoccupied with figurative representation. Expelled from the Surrealist group, he embarked on a range of sculptural experimentations, attempting to synthesise reality into a singular, essential form. He developed three motifs—the walking man, the standing female nude, and the bust—in this fragile, attenuated style.

Giacometti produced major work that drew him international acclaim following World War II. Tall Figure and The Walking Man (both 1947) are towering, slender figures whose size and unfinished surfaces place them in the viewer's space while remaining in an inaccessible, ephemeral realm. Such thin figures, bound to weighty pedestals, were seized upon by proponents of Existentialist thought as encapsulating the alienation of post-war Europe.

In 1953, Giacometti turned away from his thin figures to a greater concern for lifelike accuracy. In 1956, he produced his 'Woman of Venice' works for the French Pavilion at the Venice Biennale. With an increased corporeality, the 15 female nudes acted as a summary of his stylistic progression to date. The artist's final years were studded with retrospectives and accolades. He continued to work on both sculpture and painting, largely producing portraits and busts of his close acquaintances.

Giacometti first exhibited his sculptures at Salon des Tuileries in Paris, 1927. His first solo exhibition was at Galerie Pierre Colle, Paris (1932), and his first solo exhibition in the United States was at the Julien Levy Gallery, New York (1935). His work was exhibited in retrospectives at the Arts Council Gallery, London, and the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, in 1955, and at the Kunsthalle Bern, Switzerland, in 1956.

Giacometti was awarded the Carnegie Prize in Sculpture in 1961, and the Grand Prize for Sculpture at the Venice Biennale in 1962. In 1965, major exhibitions of his work were held by Tate London, The Museum of Modern Art, New York, and the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, Humlebaek. In the same year, he was honoured with the Grand Prix National des Arts by the French government. He died of heart complications in 1966.

Alena Kavka | Ocula | 2021

Alberto Giacometti Featured Artworks

Bruno lisant by Alberto Giacometti contemporary artwork
Alberto GiacomettiBruno lisant, 1927-28Pencil on paper
48 x 31.2 cm
Bailly Gallery Contact Gallery
Double étude d'Annetta Giacometti by Alberto Giacometti contemporary artwork
Alberto GiacomettiDouble étude d'Annetta Giacometti, 1920Pencil on paper
36.5 x 25.5 cm
Bailly Gallery Contact Gallery
The Search by Alberto Giacometti contemporary artwork
Alberto GiacomettiThe Search, 1968Restrike etching
25.4 x 20.3 cm
Dellasposa Gallery Contact Gallery
Tête d'homme III by Alberto Giacometti contemporary artwork
Alberto GiacomettiTête d'homme III, 1964Lithograph
65.5 x 47.8 cm
Galerie Lelong & Co. Paris Contact Gallery

Alberto Giacometti Recent Exhibitions

Contemporary art exhibition, Group Exhibition, Prints at Galerie Lelong & Co. Paris, 13 Rue de Téhéran, Paris
21 November 2019–18 January 2020 Group Exhibition Prints Galerie Lelong & Co. Paris13 Rue de Téhéran, Paris
Contemporary art exhibition, Group Exhibition, Spiegelgasse (Mirror Alley) at Hauser & Wirth, London
18 May–28 July 2018 Group Exhibition Spiegelgasse (Mirror Alley) Hauser & WirthLondon

Alberto Giacometti Represented By

Bailly Gallery contemporary art gallery in Paris, France Bailly Gallery Geneva, Paris
Gagosian contemporary art gallery in 980 Madison Avenue, New York, USA Gagosian New York, Athens, Beverly Hills, London, Paris, Le Bourget, Geneva, Basel, Rome, Hong Kong

Alberto Giacometti In Related Press

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How Surrealism’s Playful Aesthetic Was Deeply Political Related Press How Surrealism’s Playful Aesthetic Was Deeply Political 16 September 2019, Hyperallergic

Susan Laxton's book Surrealism at Play passionately traces how a particular art movement envisioned and articulated its own transformative potential. As Laxton illustrates, the Surrealists agitated for exploding art into life, which meant engaging with their day-to-day reality, and taking a critical stance toward it. A professor of art history at...

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How Alberto Giacometti's fragile world view still resonates Related Press How Alberto Giacometti's fragile world view still resonates 23 September 2017, Independent

The life and art of Alberto Giacometti have received plenty of attention in 2017.

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The unsolved mysteries of Alberto Giacometti Related Press The unsolved mysteries of Alberto Giacometti 14 July 2017, Apollo Magazine

Giacometti's reputation as one of the 20th century's greatest and most celebrated artists is unassailable. Since his death in 1966, exhibitions of his work around the world have ensured the continuing visibility of his distinctive achievement. In the last decade, France, Turkey, Spain, Italy, Brazil, Argentina, Germany, the Netherlands, and the...

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On the edge of madness: the terrors and genius of Alberto Giacometti Related Press On the edge of madness: the terrors and genius of Alberto Giacometti 24 April 2017, The Guardian

In 1957, the writer Jean Genet described the studio of his friend Alberto Giacometti. It was 'a milky swamp, a seething dump, a genuine ditch'. There was plaster all over the floor and all over the face, hair and clothes of the sculptor; there were scraps of paper and lumps of paint on every available surface. And yet, 'lo and behold the...

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