Alberto Giacometti (1901-1966) : Swiss sculptor and painter. Associated with the Surrealist movement (of which he was not formally a part of), his sculptures featured elongated people, created by clumping clay around wires. This method&created deformed looking people, which only increased the feeling of alienation in the sculptures he made. None of the figures in his sculpture ever looked at each other...

"To my terror the sculptures became smaller and smaller. Only when small were they alike, and all the same these dimensions revolted me, and tirelessly I began again, only to end up, a few months later, at the same point"

A Life in 9 Words

Alberto Giacometti was a Swiss Surrealist Sculptor and Painter.

A Life in 90 Words; Less Insight

Giacometti was born on October 10, 1901 in Switzerland. His father was a painter, and his formative years were spent mastering the techniques of the current styles and modes of art. He studied in the Ecole des Beaux-Arts and the Ecole des Arts et Métiers, both in Geneva. He mixed with Simone de Beauvoir, Pablo Picasso, Samuel Beckett, and Jean-Paul Sartre. In the late forties, he began to sculpt bodies with grotesquely elongated limbs, sculpting clay around wire skeletons. He won the grand prize in the Venice Biennale in 1962.

He died on January 11, 1966 of pericarditis.

Representative Works

Jean Genet (1954)

Jean Genet was a Homosexual, Thief, Author, and the subject of a rather odd essay by Jean-Paul Sartre entitled "Saint Genet". In this painting, Genet's face is obliterated in the swirl of brush strokes. It is a clear suggestion of a face, but the human element is missing. The suit he wears, the room he occupies, both seem large and empty. His head is small and sad.

Man Striding (1960)

The figure is tall and thin, pulled in every direction. The texture is rough, dangerous, and primative. The man leans forward into his stride; his legs are spaced far apart. His legs terminate in wedges, welded to the base. He is in motion. He is alone.

Nose (1947)

The bust hangs in space, supported by a rectangular frame. There is a suggestion of a face, with a hyperbole of a nose. The nose projects out of the frame, counterweighted by the blunt torso. The figure is not smiling.

The Palace at 4 a.m. (1932)

Thin wooden pieces intimate the skeleton of a house. In the lower level, a backbone is on display, a woman's figure stands to the left. There is an alter in the middle, or an icon, or a piece of art. At the top, a bird flies within its own frame.


In 2003, Sam Chen created an animated short, Eternal Gaze, about Giacometti. Giacometti felt that the most important thing to capture was the object's gaze; it was what brought the subject to life. He lamented that he never created exactly what he was attempting. "When I look at my painting, I see blackness."

In the 15 minute film, Giacometti is haunted by his own creations. It is very well done.


Eternal Gaze
Guggenheim Biography
Lucie-Smith, Edward. The Lives of the Great 20th-Century Artists. Thames & Hudson, 1999.

Seeing Giacometti's Work at
the Museum of Modern Art:
A Haiku

Where he saw blackness
trailing beautiful mistakes
I saw my life, stretched

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