Alberto Giacometti

I have had a postcard of Giacometti’s ‘Man Pointing’ up in my bathroom for ages, and was curious to see the exhibition at Tate Modern as it was getting rave reviews. His elongated figures are well known but some of his other sculptures looked intriguing.

Alberto Giacometti, the son of Impressionist painter Giovanni Giacometti, started his art journey by doing sculptures of his brother Diego – primarily his head. The human head held a profound fascination for the artist throughout his life and the numerous sculptures and busts of various people that he produced make this apparent.

He was influenced by the abstracted figures of Africa and Oceania, which is clearly evident in his work on display at the exhibition – both the sculptures and the drawings/paintings. The simple faces staring straight ahead are slightly disconcerting, and I feel they are strangely devoid of any life:

I know when I did my first self portrait the studied look of concentration made me unrecognisably stern and I feel it is the same with these. I found them quite mesmerising, especially as they were in the exhibition, displayed en masse. Giacometti cast many of his sculptures in bronze but also enjoyed working in clay and plaster as he could mould these materials with his own hands. The faces and busts of Annette, his wife, were brilliant as the likeness between them all was astonishing – much more so than from the paintings and drawings. I’ve never seen sculptures as portraits:

The other sculptures interested me too. This one in particular:

IMG_5419
Man, Woman and Child

http://www.kunsthaus.ch/giacometti/en/

I read this to be quite sinister – it was about the size of a tea tray and initially it looks a bit like a child’s toy but on closer inspection it takes on a more domineering tone.

The male element is pointing at the woman who can move from side to side. The child – the small ball bearing – could also move and would be protected by the woman if she moved too. This depiction of the “father’s gaze” [1] was possibly Giacometti’s response to his deteriorating relationship with Giovanni. This reference to the gaze is repeated in more sculptures, such as Point to the Eye. 

The elongated figures are fantastic. The Four Women on a Base is probably my favourite:

Four Women on a base, 1950 (bronze)

http://www.bridgemanimages.com/fr/asset/478115/giacometti-alberto-1901-66/four-women-on-a-base-1950-bronze

What I like is how they are so obviously women with so little detail. I can relate to how he wanted to make them more and more stretched and minimialise the features; it must become strangely addictive. These are dated 1950; his Women of Venice of 1956 are more obviously women:

I find the figures mesmerising and could look at them for hours.

 

 

[1] Wilson, L. (2005) Alberto Giacometti: Myth, Magic, and the Man Yale University Press

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