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Alberto Giacometti

Giacometti, Alberto (älbĕrˈtō jäkōmĕtˈtē) [key], 1901–66, Swiss sculptor and painter; son of the impressionist painter Giovannia Giacometti; b. Stampa. He settled in Paris in 1922, studying with Bourdelle and becoming associated first with the cubists and then the surrealists (see cubism; surrealism). His Slaughtered Woman (1932; Mus. of Modern Art, New York City), for example, is a violent surrealist work. Giacometti abandoned surrealist images in 1935. In the 1930s and thereafter, he created highly original sculptures of elongated, emaciated human figures, usually in bronze. He also made open cagelike structures (e.g., The Palace at 4 a.m., 1933; Mus. of Modern Art, New York City) that were equally powerful.

Giacometti's haunting, anguished images have been described as perfect expressions of existentialist pessimism. In the early 1940s he created works on a drastically reduced scale. In his later years he again formed tall, slender, roughly worked figures that are among his most impressive sculptures. In his mature work, he concentrated on three basic themes for his attenuated figures—the seated portrait, the walking man, and the standing female nude, the latter two often with tiny shrunken heads and enormous, rooted feet. Giacometti's imagery and his plastic technique have had an extensive influence on modern sculpture. Many of his oil paintings and drawings, notably his portraits with their delicate, weblike tangle of lines, are also works of great distinction.

See biography by J. Lord (1985); catalog of the Museum of Modern Art (1965); drawings ed. by J. Lord (1971); J. Lord, Giacometti Portrait (1965), studies by R. Hohl (1971) and D. Sylvester (1996).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

See more Encyclopedia articles on: European Art, 1600 to the Present: Biographies


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