Alberto Giacometti

1901–1966

Alberto Giacometti, ‘Man Pointing’ 1947
Man Pointing 1947
© The Estate of Alberto Giacometti (Fondation Giacometti, Paris and ADAGP, Paris), licensed in the UK by ACS and DACS, London 2018
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Biography

Alberto Giacometti (Italian pronunciation: [alˈbɛrto dʒakoˈmetti]; 10 October 1901 – 11 January 1966) was a Swiss sculptor, painter, draftsman and printmaker. Beginning in 1922, he lived and worked mainly in Paris but regularly visited his hometown Borgonovo to see his family and work on his art.

Giacometti was one of the most important sculptors of the 20th century. His work was particularly influenced by artistic styles such as Cubism and Surrealism. Philosophical questions about the human condition, as well as existential and phenomenological debates played a significant role in his work. Around 1935 he gave up on his Surrealistic influences in order to pursue a more deepened analysis of figurative compositions. Giacometti wrote texts for periodicals and exhibition catalogues and recorded his thoughts and memories in notebooks and diaries. His self-critical nature led to great doubts about his work and his ability to do justice to his own artistic ideas but acted as a great motivating force.

Between 1938 and 1944 Giacometti's sculptures had a maximum height of seven centimeters (2.75 inches). Their small size reflected the actual distance between the artist's position and his model. In this context he self-critically stated: "But wanting to create from memory what I had seen, to my terror the sculptures became smaller and smaller". After the war, Giacometti created his most famous sculptures: his extremely tall and slender figurines. These sculptures were subject to his individual viewing experience—between an imaginary yet real, a tangible yet inaccessible space.

In Giacometti's whole body of work, his painting constitute only a small part. After 1957, however, his figurative paintings were equally as present as his sculptures. His almost monochromatic paintings of his late work do not refer to any other artistic styles of modernity.

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Artworks

Film and audio

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Alberto Giacometti | TateShots

Alberto Giacometti was one of the great painter-sculptors of the twentieth century explains Tate Modern Director Frances Morris.
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Giacometti exhibition trailer

Watch the trailer for our Giacometti exhibition on at Tate Modern

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Poem of the Month: Tishani Doshi

Tishani Doshi presents her poem based on Alberto Giacometti’s Walking Woman, from our collection

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