Switzerland • 1901−1966
Alberto Giacometti (ital. Alberto Giacometti, October 10, 1901, Borgonovo, Stampa, Switzerland - January 11, 1966, Chur, Switzerland) - Swiss sculptor and artist, who spent most of his life in France, in Paris. At various times he belonged to the group of Parisian surrealist painters and went through a passion for cubistic forms and ideas, but Giacometti’s fame brings his own unique style of sculpture, which would later be called existential. The works of Giacometti in recent years, occupy the top positions in the lists of the most expensive sculptures in the world.

Features of the work of the sculptor and artist Alberto Giacometti: his main works will be recognized by several key signs. These are tall, thin, almost disappearing figures: walking men and women standing. They resemble skeletons of burnt wooden cult statues, trembling reflections in the water, or distant silhouettes dissolving in the fog. Even in the figures cast in bronze, the traces of the sculptor's fingers are always noticeable, the outlines of small fragments of clay, from which the figure was created, were built up onto metal reinforcement. But to this thinned, emaciated ghost man Giacometti comes quite late. At the beginning of his stay in Paris, he creates bold, surrealistic sculptures from different materials, playing with erotic motifs and absurd ideas in simple forms. After going through a short period of cubist experiments, Giacometti returns to work with kind, gradually achieving a unique unique vision of the human body and philosophical depth.
Giacometti's painting and graphic works are also almost always images of people. Developing from intermediate, working, sketch strokes into expressive portraits, they preserve the process of searching for truth, the essence of the model. Strokes on them are like fingerprints on sculptures.

The most famous sculptures by Alberto Giacometti: "Pointing Man", "Walking Man", "Chariot", "Venice woman", "Diego's Big Head", "Cell".

For 40 years, Alberto Giacometti worked in one workshop of 20 square meters in Montparnasse. There was running water and a toilet outside, a catastrophic mess, lumps of clay on the floor, and drawings on the walls. I spent the night here or in the room of the nearest hotel. Only his marriage made him rent a larger room. He ate mostly scrambled eggs and hard cheese, drank a lot of coffee and smoked. Among his close friends were Jean-Paul Sartre and Jean Genet, Pablo Picasso and Henri Matisse, he fashioned a dried, barren tree for scenery in the play “Waiting for Godot” for a friend of Samuel Beckett. He gave an interview, not looking up from work, and said: “I would not want to spend my whole life doing sculptures, but alas, it will be so”.


Alberto Giacometti was born in a Swiss mountain village in the family of a post-impressionist artist Giovanni Giacomettitherefore, I learned to draw almost before I read and talk in a smooth manner. In early childhood, he enthusiastically copies the old masters of his father's books, in 12 years he will write the first oil painting, and in 13 he will fashion the busts of his younger brothers.

But Giovanni Giacometti was not just a provincial artist who painted landscapes and a large family, he held an important post in the Swiss Federal Commission on Art. And with him, Alberto visited the Venice Biennale, saw Tintoretto and Giotto's frescoes in the Scrovegni Chapel in Padua.

Alberto begins to study at the Academy of Fine Arts in Geneva as expected as the children of bankers go to study financial literacy, and the children of merchants at the age of 18 master the parental business. And just as expected his training and causes bouts of yawning. In this young pre-Paris period, in one year, two stories will happen to Giacometti, which will largely determine his future artistic quest and, of course, they will not be associated at all with the lessons of modeling and painting. Of course, they will be associated with life and death.

While combing Italy in a traditional journey for young artists, Giacometti absorbs artistic impressions and examines people. And on one of the sunny Italian streets a vision happens to him: people seem to him giants, too unearthly and incomprehensible creatures - and all the great paintings that he managed to see enough of these fantastic scales of human nature does not convey. Between them - the abyss.

And in the autumn of the same year, Alberto will go to the Italian Alps in the company of an unfamiliar middle-aged person, with whom an attack will happen on the trip. He will die suddenly and painfully in front of a 20-year-old Giacometti. Starting from that day until the end of his own life, the artist, falling asleep in the dead of night, never turns off the lights in the room. It is completely irrational to be afraid of the dark. And the rest of his life will feel the fragility and fragility of all living things, as in that terrible night in the mountains.


The long-awaited, the only true, obvious Paris, the center of the artistic revolution at the beginning of the 20th century, has become for Alberto a city of desperate loneliness for several years. He enters the private Academy de la Grande Chaumiere, where visiting Spaniards, Italians, Swiss, Russians study and where they profess the principles of free creativity outside the academic program. Many students of Grand Shoomer will become famous artists and conquer Paris, but in the early years of apprenticeships, recalled Giacometti, there is an impenetrable wall between foreigners and the French.

In 1925, the younger brother Diego, the man who will work in the adjacent workshop on Montparnasse, who will become his favorite model, helper and close friend, comes to Alberto in Paris in the next 40 years. Upon arrival in the French capital, Diego started making furniture, he made some models of lamps, floor lamps and home decor according to his brother’s sketches, but he invented many things himself. Today, at auctions, the prices of bronze statues and tables, wooden screens and chairs by Diego Giacometti reach a million euros. One of the biographers Alberto Giacometti tried to describe the role of the younger brother in his life: "it's as if Alberto had 4 hands".

Diego will cast the first sculptures of his elder brother in bronze, when Pierre Matisse (son Henri) will offer to hold an exhibition of his works. No matter how busy he is with his successful work, Diego comes in the morning to Alberto’s workshop and poses until the middle of the day. There was a period of 5 years when he posed every day. No breaks. When he was just leaving for Paris, his mother asked Diego only one thing as a farewell: “Look after Alberto”. He will honestly do this until the death of his brother.


It was the end of surrealism. In any case, the end of that era, when artists and poets, rebels and disturbers of order, shot at lectures, read excerpts from newspapers under the guise of poems, organized automatic group writing sessions under hypnosis or a fair amount of alcohol, drove to Freud and fought on the streets. In 1828, Giacometti met at the exhibition with Andre Masson, begins to make movable sculptures, similar to absurd, fantastic, dreamlike designs. The theorist and dictator of the movement, Andre Breton, proclaims his works as absolutely surrealistic: they resemble sacral ritual artifacts, the purpose of which no one can remember, toys, the rules of the game with which have long been lost.

For a former foreign student, Giacometti is a new, Parisian world: noisy shocking exhibitions, provocative tracts, political discussions about communist ideals, nightly friendly disputes in smoky cafes in Montparnasse. But it was the end of surrealism. A thirty-year-old sculptor will decide once that he must work with nature in kind - and the offended surrealist visionaries who trust only in imagination and a strong doping will declare it a betrayal.

After this brief sur-romance, which ended in a delusional interrogation and a special session, Alberto did not stand alone. He leaves the group following Louis Aragon, but continues his friendship with many former colleagues. He is experimenting with cubist forms and has long been in touch with Pablo Picasso, until, after a disgusting quarrel in 1951, he does not break with him completely. He is friends with Matisse and in 1954 he painted portraits of the artist, bedridden in Nice.

A regular participant in the nightly bohemian smoky Montparnasse talks, Giacometti becomes a Parisian celebrity. Dealers conclude contracts with him, and bankers make orders, his name is to America and is constantly demonstrated in Paris. But he continues to live in hotel rooms and in small rented mezzanines. He is convinced that he understands nothing in sculpture and is just beginning to search.


A few days before the German soldiers captured Paris in 1940, Giacometti and his brother were trying to leave the city on bicycles. A column of refugees fired from the air. The next 5 years, Alberto, who will be unfit for service, will spend in Geneva. He works in a hotel room and sculpts tiny human figures. When the war is over, he will pack these sculptures in matchboxes and take him to Paris.

There is something pressing and symbolic in the sculptures of this period: the size of each is no more than a couple of centimeters. A person who is hundreds of times smaller than any surrounding space, wherever he goes. Later, each of these figures Giacometti set on an immense, multiplying loneliness stand. This is the loneliness of the metaphysical property, the feeling of the absolute inner abandonment of man in the world. In Geneva, the sculptor is not alone - he constantly meets with friends, philosophers, artists, geologists, photographers, publishers. Finally, he meets a 20-year-old Annette Arm, a girl who laughs loudly and wants to test this world for strength, in whose eyes “the world is sinking” and which is ready to go for 42-year-old Alberto to Paris.

For the next 20 years, Giacometti decides on the plan of the day. The first half of the day is already busy - Diego poses for him. Now Annette will pose for him the whole afternoon, and Alberto finally finds universal, archetypical feminine traits in her. Male thin figures growing up from his matchstick figures will walk, move, fall, point. Women - look proudly, confidently, stand straight and grow from the very earth.

Alberto Giacometti was childless because of a disease he had suffered in childhood, he didn’t want to acquire a house and things, he was lame in one leg because of a car accident, he was cut out most of his stomach because of neglected ulcers and disorderly, destructive food, and even then he did not quit smoking, he passionately carried away a girl with a dubious reputation and kept in touch with her until his death. All this time, Annette was next. He was famous and recognized on both sides of the ocean, he was loved and sought to meet him, Sartre wrote an essay for his first major exhibition in America, Jean-Genet and several other writers published books about him. He carefully, precisely and clearly picked up the words, answering journalists' questions and a few years before his death, passing through his own retrospective exhibition, said: “Yesterday I realized that this is all great. And then I became anxious. If I like everything, it means that either I have lost the ability of a critical eye, or have fallen into a state where there is nothing more to do. ”.

Author: Anna Sidelnikova
Go to biography


View all publications


Alle Ausstellungen des Künstlers
View all artist's artworks
Vollständiger Feed