"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
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.
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.
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
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.
Lucie-Smith, Edward. The Lives of the Great 20th-Century Artists. Thames & Hudson, 1999.
Seeing Giacometti's Work at
the Museum of Modern Art:
Where he saw blackness
trailing beautiful mistakes
I saw my life, stretched