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By Carroll, Colleen | Arts & Activities, May 2009 | Go to article overview

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Carroll, Colleen, Arts & Activities


ABOUT THE ARTIST

Alberto Giacometti was one of the seminal sculptors of the 20th century. Born in 1901 in an Italian-speaking region of Switzerland, Giacometti took his place as the eldest child in a family of creators: his father and uncle were both painters who taught him techniques and introduced him the current stylistic trends of the period, including Impressionism, Post-Impressionism and Cubism.

Giacometti once said, "As a child, what I most wanted to do was illustrate stories. The first drawing I remember was an illustration to a fairytale: Snow White in a tiny coffin, and the dwarfs." Also, "I thought I could copy absolutely anything, and that I understood it better than anybody else." (Source: www.artchive.com excerpted from Edward Lucie-Smith, Lives of the Great 20th Century Artists, Thames & Hudson, 1999.)

According to a biography of the artist from Rai International: "In 1916, during high school, he displayed total mastery of Impressionist language in a portrait of his mother modeled with plastilina." (Source: www.italica, rai.it.) Drawing would remain an important aspect of his life and working method: "I've been fifty thousand times to the Louvre. I have copied everything in drawing, trying to understand."

After high school, he attended the School of Fine Arts in Geneva, and in 1920 took a trip to Italy where he became engrossed in the work of Italian masters Giotto (c. 1267-1337) and Tintoretto (1518-1594). Of Giotto's fresco cycle in Padua's Arena Chapel, Giacometti remarked, "The frescoes of Giotto gave me a crushing blow to the chest. I was suddenly aimless and lost." (Source: www.artchive.com.) In 1922 he traveled to Paris to continue his studies with sculptor Antoine Bourdelle. It was during this sojourn that he flirted with Cubism.

In 1925 he was joined by his brother Diego, a furniture designer and craftsman, who would become Alberto's lifelong assistant. In 1927 he came in contact with other Swiss artists who were part of the Surrealist movement, and he began making sculptures that reflected the Surrealist's preoccupation with dreams and the subconscious mind, such as this month's selection, The Palace at 4 a.m. (1932). These sculptures brought him quick renown, and he began to move in circles with other avant-garde artists of the time, including Jean Arp (1887-1966), Max Ernst (1891-1976), Joan Miro (1893-1983) and Pablo Picasso (1881-1973), each of whom were applying the tenets of Surrealism in their own art.

At his first one-man show in 1932, he exhibited his collection of Surrealist sculptures and objects, many of which were influenced by African and primitive art forms. Shortly thereafter, he broke from the Surrealists and began creating representational figures based on his brother Diego's face. Returning to the model was clearly out of step with the times, and this move didn't curry favor with his contemporaries.

Around this time he met and established a friendship with the writer/philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre (1905-1980), whose existentialist writings would influence and inform Giacometti for the rest of his life. …

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