Art on This Day
Alberto Giacometti died on this day in 1966. He was a Swiss sculptor, painter, and printmaker. He was born in 1901 in the alpine valley Val Bregaglia, as the eldest of four children to Giovanni Giacometti, a well-known post-Impressionist painter. Coming from an artistic background, he was interested in art from an early age and produced his first oil painting (Still Life with Apples, circa 1915) and first sculpted bust (Diego, circa 1914-1915) in his father's studio at the age of fourteen. His father and his godfather, the Symbolist painter Cuno Amiet (1868-1961) were two crucial figures in young Alberto’s artistic development.
In 1922 he moved to Paris to study under the sculptor Antoine Bourdelle, an associate of Rodin. It was there that Giacometti experimented with cubism and surrealism and came to be regarded as one of the leading surrealist sculptors. Among his associates were Miró, Max Ernst, Picasso, and Balthus.
Giacometti was a key player in the Surrealist art movement, but his work resists easy categorization.
Between 1936 and 1940, Giacometti concentrated his sculpting on the human head, focusing on the sitter's gaze. He preferred models he was close to, like his sister and the artist Isabel Rawsthorne (then known as Isabel Delmer). This was followed by a phase in which his statues became stretched out, the limbs elongated.
Obsessed with creating his sculptures exactly as he envisioned through his unique view of reality, he often carved until they were as thin as nails and reduced to the size of a pack of cigarettes, much to his consternation. A friend of his once said that if Giacometti decided to sculpt you, "he would make your head look like the blade of a knife". After his marriage to Annette Arm in 1946 his tiny sculptures became larger, but the larger they grew, the thinner they became. Giacometti said that the final result represented the sensation he felt when he looked at a woman.
In a letter to Pierre Matisse, Giacometti wrote: "Figures were never a compact mass but like a transparent construction".
In 1962, Giacometti was awarded the grand prize for sculpture at the Venice Biennale, and the award brought with it worldwide fame, his works were shown in a number of large exhibitions throughout Europe. Even when he had achieved popularity and his work was in demand, he still reworked models, often destroying them or setting them aside to be returned to years later.
L'Homme qui marche I, a life-sized bronze sculpture of a man, became one of the most expensive works of art and the most expensive sculpture ever sold at auction in 2010, when it sold for £65 million (US$104.3 million) at Sotheby's, London.L'Homme au doigt (Pointing Man) sold for $126 million, or $141.3 million with fees, at Christie's in May 2015, again a record for a sculpture at auction. The work had been in the same private collection for 45 years.
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