Alberto Giacometti

Alberto Giacometti is one of the most important artists of the twentieth century. He became famous for his sculptures, but was also a renowned painter and draftsman. Although he was already a leading figure in the Surrealist movement in Paris in the 1930s, it is his post-war creations that have become his major artistic legacy. The long, slender statues represent Giacometti's easily recognizable style. The representation of the human being in his existential vulnerability and anguish is the main subject of his creation. For Giacometti, it was a matter of capturing reality in all its complexity.

His father, Giovanni Giacometti, himself a painter, encouraged his interest in sculpture. After completing his compulsory schooling, Alberto went to study at the École des Beaux-Arts in Geneva before arriving in Paris on January 9, 1922. He frequented Antoine Bourdelle's studio at the Académie de la Grande Chaumière of Montparnasse. He discovered cubism, African art and Greek statuary. 

In April 1927, he and his brother, Diego Giacometti, moved into the "studio-cave" on rue Hippolyte-Maindron (14th arrondissement), which they would never leave. The same year, Alberto exhibited his first works at the Salon des Tuileries. 
His first solo exhibition at the Maeght Gallery took place in 1951, it was accompanied, like those that followed, by the publication of a Derrière Le Miroir, containing original lithographs. 

Giacometti's lithographs are pure line drawings executed in black on transfer paper. We find the familiar or insistent subjects to which we are accustomed in his painted and sculpted work, the same characters, the same street, the same workshops cluttered with sculptures, stools and paintings. The rapid, nervous, repeated line does not enclose, does not fix the forms but seems to make beings and things emerge from the light itself that bathes them and from the space that they develop. 
If the conditions of the process, notably the impossibility of erasing or going back on the line, give the lithographs a lesser finesse and subtlety than the lead drawings, they acquire on the other hand a frankness and a spontaneity which allows, in a way, to assist in the birth, in the gushing of his hallucinating drawing. 

Among Henri Cartier-Bresson's iconic photographs is this marvelous one, both an exceptional document and a living portrait of Alberto Giacometti. It was taken during the preparation of an exhibition at the Maeght Gallery, in 1961. "The Walking Man" was exhibited there before being moved to the courtyard of the Maeght Foundation which was under construction.

The etchings engraved in 1955 are also aids to drawing, but in this field the imperious demands of the process give the compositions very particular characteristics. Alberto Giacometti cares little for the complex techniques and "cooking" of etching, and willingly abandons the sequence of operations, from biting the metal to printing the proofs. He engraves with the point on the copper varnish as he would with a pen on a sheet of paper. 
In his engravings, Alberto Giacometti invites us into his studio to share his research and the progress of his sculpted or painted work. In the clutter of Buste in the shop, we see canvases, laid against the wall, finished sculptures or in progress. 

 Aimé Maeght, Annette Giacometti, X, Marguerite Maeght, Alberto Giacometti in the Giacometti Court at the Maeght Foundation, 1964.

"I will never be able to put into a portrait all the force that is in a head. "he wrote. When Alberto Giacometti makes portraits, he lets us create the environment as in the wonderful portrait Mère (Mother) de l'artiste by which he represents only the face. Our imagination builds around this face. On the other hand, in Buste d'homme, (Man's Bust,) Tête d'homme ( Man's Head) and Bust II, the artist highlights the features of the face and places them in an environment, even creating a frame for Tête d'homme (Man's Head) . Le Chien (The Dog) and Tête de chat (Cat's Head) seem to answer each other through the studio under L'Homme qui marche, (The Walking Man) a tireless walker through pictorial time.Giacometti fixed, in his engraved work, some of his sculpted or painted masterpieces in the midst of everyday objects, for example The shop with the Two Buckets, The Two Stools, the stove, a saddle... Alberto Giacometti still says: "There is only reality that interests me and I know that I could spend the rest of my life copying a chair.  "

Few color photos of Alberto Giacometti.
This one, from 1958 is a pure masterpiece by Ernst Scheidegger.

We recognize the iconic sculptures that my grandfather, Aimé Maeght, destined for the Maeght Foundation which was then under construction.

Born October 10, 1901 in Borgonovo, Switzerland.
Died January 11, 1966 in Chur, Switzerland. 

"And when, in the twilight of his research, he liked to cover with color the craters of the blind plaster, was he on the threshold of an unknown color, or should we see in this little barbaric red and blue only an even steeper relief for the white of an absolute mourning?"
Yves Bonnefoy, "L'étranger de Giacometti."

1915-1919: Completes his secondary studies at the Protestant college in Schiers, near Chur, Switzerland. First sculpted or painted busts and first woodcuts. Interrupted his studies and enrolled at the École des Beaux-Arts, then at the École des Arts et Métiers in Geneva. Trip to Italy for a year.
1922: Moves to Paris to study sculpture. Attends the Académie de la Grande Chaumière, in the studio of the sculptor Bourdelle.
1925: First participation in the Salon des Tuileries where he exhibited a Head of Diego and an avant-garde work (Torso).
1926: Moved to 46 rue Hippolyte-Maindron, Paris, in what would become his permanent studio. Produces a series of sculptures heads and figures (The Couple, The Woman-spoon).
1927: Exhibits at the Salon des Tuileries.
1929 : He rubs shoulders with social circles thanks to Jean Cocteau. Devotes himself to painting and sculpture, while designing decorative objects for the interior designer Jean-Michel Frank and jewelry for the fashion designer Elsa Schiaparelli.
1930: Joins the Surrealist group, an artistic movement founded by the writer André Breton. Exhibits at the Pierre Loeb Gallery in Paris, alongside Jean Arp and Joan Miró. He acquires a great "surrealist" notoriety with The Suspended Ball. He met Louis Aragon, André Breton, Salvador Dalí, André Masson...  His brother Diego joined him in Paris.
1932: Collaborates and participates in the Salon des Surindépendants.
1935: First solo exhibition in New York, Julien Levy Gallery. The Invisible Object, Giacometti's masterpiece from the Surrealist period. Was excluded from the Surrealist group. His new sculptures, with their almost abstract geometric rigor, bring him back to reality and the model (The Cube, Head).
1936 to 1940: Participates in numerous group exhibitions around the world. Frequents the artists Balthus, Gruber, Tal Coat, and the group around the journal Abstraction-Création. Frequents André Derain, to whom he has a real admiration. Entrusts the New York gallery owner, Pierre Matisse, with the representation of his work in the United States. He abandons the model and returns to the work of memory. His sculptures become tiny until they disappear.
1941: Became friends with Simone de Beauvoir and Jean-Paul Sartre. During the war, lives in Geneva with his brother Diego.
1945: Resumes sculpting nudes and heads, determined not to let them diminish; but he destroys them and starts over again to end up with the same stretched and wiry figures, the only ones that correspond to his vision of reality.
1935 to 1947: Does not exhibit once.
1947: Participates in the International Exhibition of Surrealism at the Maeght Gallery. Aimé Maeght orders his first bronze sculptures.
1948: First solo exhibition at the Pierre Matisse Gallery in New York. Jean-Paul Sartre writes the preface to the catalog. His style is now affirmed. Sculpted The Standing Woman, Three Men Walking, Figurine in a Box, The Square, The Forest, The Glade.
1949: First lithograph, the portrait of the poet Tristan Tzara. He married Annette Arm 

1951: First solo exhibition at the Maeght Gallery in Paris, where other exhibitions followed in 1954, 1957 and 1961. Produces lithographs for Derrière le Miroir, a magazine published by Maeght. Francis Ponge devotes an essay to him in the magazine Cahiers d'art, illustrated with photographs by Ernst Scheidegger.
1953-1954 : Designs the sets for his friend Samuel Beckett's play "Waiting for Godot". The writer Jean Genet poses for him. Jean-Paul Sartre dedicated a second essay to him, published in the magazine Derrière le Miroir.
1956 : Works on a series of large standing women that he exhibits at the Venice Biennale in the French pavilion (Les Femmes de Venise). He exhibits at the Kunsthalle of Bern. In October, Isaku Yanaihara, a professor of French philosophy at Osaka University, began to pose for him. He returned to pose in 1957, 1959, 1960 and 1961.
1957 : Jean Genet writes " The Shop of Alberto Giacometti ", which appears in the magazine Derrière le Miroir, then as a book illustrated with photographs by Ernst Scheidegger in 1963. 
1958 : First monographic exhibition in Japan, in Tokyo, at the Minami Gallery.  Became friends with Caroline, who posed for him from 1960 to 1965.
1959 : The architect Gordon Bunshaft commands him a monument for the Chase Manhattan Bank in New York. This work absorbed him for a year until the spring of 1960. Giacometti imagined a man walking, a woman standing and a head on a pedestal, which for him summarized all his research. While the project of the Maeght Foundation is well advanced, Aimé Maeght offers Alberto Giacometti a space worthy of his work by offering him the central courtyard of the Maeght Foundation. Four of these sculptures will be painted by the sculptor and arranged by him in the Foundation's courtyard.
1960 : Giacometti pursued an impossible resemblance, notably in the busts of Annette and the paintings of Caroline. He concentrates on the drawing of the eye and the intensity of the gaze which seems to him to command the truth of the whole head.
1961 : Publication of Michel Leiris' book "Vivantes cendres innommées" illustrated with 52 etchings. He wins the Grand Prix Carnegie de Sculptures in Pittsburgh.
1962 : He was an international guest at the Venice Biennale and won the Grand Prix for sculpture. Maeght Editeur publishes the first complete monograph of Alberto Giacometti under the artist's control.

1964 : Inauguration le 28 juillet 1964 de la cour et de la salle Giacometti à la Fondation Marguerite et Aimé Maeght à Saint-Paul, où son œuvre est très largement représentée. Receives the Guggenheim International Painting Prize, awarded by the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York. The photographer Eli Lotar begins to pose for busts until 1965. He produces a large number of lithographs for the album "Paris sans fin". Ernst Scheidegger shoots a film about Giacometti in his studio on Rue Hippolyte-Maidron and in Stampa.
1965 : Travels to London for three retrospectives (Tate Gallery), New York (Museum of Modern Art) and Copenhagen, Denmark (Louisiana Museum). Receives the Grand Prix National des Arts, awarded by the French Ministry of Cultural Affairs.
On January 11, 1966, Alberto Giacometti died of heart exhaustion in the hospital in Chur, Switzerland. He was buried on January 15 in the cemetery of Borgonovo, Switzerland. 

Yoyo Maeght in the Giacometti Courtyard at the Maeght Foundation, near the bronze of the Walking Man.

In 2010, Yoyo Maeght organizes the exhibition "Giacometti and Maeght - 20 years of friendship" which remains the exhibition of all records at the Maeght Foundation in Saint-Paul-de-Vence.
The book La Saga Maeght by Yoyo Maeght, with dedication. Link here