Classroom Use of the Art Print

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Alberto Giacometti (Swiss; 1901-1966). The Palace at 4 a.m., 1932. Wood, glass, wire and string; 25" x 28.25" x 15.75". The Museum of Modern Art, New York.


* Alberto Giacometti was born in Switzerland to an Italian-speaking family. He was the eldest child of Giovanni Giacometti, a Post-Impressionist painter. Alberto displayed talent at a young age and grew up in an artistic environment. He was extremely close to the family's next oldest sibling, Diego, who was also an artist. Diego often assisted his brother in the studio and the two often collaborated on design and furniture projects.

* Giacometti attended art school in Geneva, Switzerland, and Paris, France. While in Paris, he briefly made sculptures inspired by Cubism and primitive and African sculptural forms. Around 1927 he began exhibiting sculptures that reflected his association with the Surrealists. This month's Clip & Save Art Print, The Palace at 4 a.m., falls in Giacometti's Surrealist period, which lasted through 1935. From 1935-40 he turned to figurative realism, creating highly textural heads with intense gazes, many of which depict his brother, Diego.

* During World War II, Giacometti lived and worked in Switzerland, where he made furniture and accepted interior design commissions. In Geneva he lived very simply, opting to live in and work out of a small hotel room. Giacometti eschewed materialism and the trappings of fame and success. He once said, "Establishing yourself, furnishing a house, building up a comfortable existence, and having that menace hanging over your head all the time--no, I prefer to live in hotels, cafes, just passing through." (Source: Edward Lucie-Smith, Lives of the Great 20th Century Artists, Thames & Hudson, 1999.)

* After the war, Giacometti returned to Paris and began making the thin, textural figures he is best known for. He began to show in both Europe and America, and in 1948 had an exhibition of his new work at the Pierre Matisse Gallery in New York City. Jean-Paul Sartre, the writer and philosopher, wrote a portion of the exhibit catalogue, referring to Giacometti's new work as grounded in "existential reality."

* Although less well-known, Giacometti was also a painter. His fame grew, and in 1962 he was awarded an important prize for sculpture at the Venice Biennale. Toward the end of his life he became more accepting of his fame, saying, "I refused the intrusion of success and recognition as long as I could. But maybe the best way to obtain success is to run away from it. Anyway, since the Biennale it's been much harder to resist. I've refused a lot of exhibitions, but one can't go on refusing forever. That wouldn't make any sense." (Source: In 1965, the artist was given a retrospective at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City. One year later, Alberto Giacometti died of heart failure and was buried in Switzerland, near his parents. …