Catalogue entry

Alberto Giacometti 1901-1966

N05939 Homme signalent (Man pointing) 1947

Inscribed 'A. Giacometti 3/6' on upper surface of base and 'Alexis. Rudier | Fondeur. Paris' back of base
Bronze, 70 x 35 1/2 x 24 1/2 (178 x 90.2 x 62.2)
Purchased from the artist (Knapping Fund) 1949
Exh: Alberto Giacometti: Sculpture, Paintings, Drawings, Arts Council Gallery, London, June-July 1955 (15, detail repr.); Alberto Giacometti, Kunsthalle, Bern, June-July 1956 (18, repr.); XXXI Biennale, Venice, June- October 1962 (Giacometti 82); Alberto Giacometti, Kunsthaus, Zurich, December 1962-January 1963 (29, repr.); Alberto Giacometti: Sculpture Pantings Drawings 1913-65, Tate Gallery, July-August 1965 (33, plaster repr.); Alberto Giacometti, Orangerie des Tuileries, Paris, October 1969-January 1970 (48, repr.)
Lit: James Lord, A Giacometti Portrait (New York 1965), p.34; Reinhold Hohl, Alberto Giacometti: Sculpture Painting Drawing (London 1972), pp.135-9, 302, repr. p.117
Repr: Andrew Carnduff Ritchie, Sculpture of the Twentieth Century (New York 1952), p.210; John Rothenstein, The Tate Gallery (London 1958), pl.23

This is one of several sculptures made very quickly for inclusion in Giacometti's first New York exhibition at the Pierre Matisse Gallery in January-February 1948. Giacometti told James Lord in 1964: 'I did that piece in one night between midnight and nine the next morning. That is, I'd already done it, but I demolished it and did it all over again because the men from the foundry were coming to take it away. And when they got here, the plaster was still wet.'

In 1951 he made a second male figure - very upright, with arms to the sides - as a companion piece, and the group was exhibited in 1951 at the Galerie Maeght as 'Groupe 2 Hommes' 1947-51. The pointing man had one arm loosely round the second figure, and with the pointing finger was drawing his companion's attention to something in the distance. (Cf. Cahiers d'Art, 1951, pp.76 and 88 for photographs). But whereas the pointing man was in bronze, the new figure was only in plaster.

When asked whether he had intended a two-figure group from the beginning, Giacometti replied as follows (letter of 20 October 1953):

'As for the sculpture of the pointing man of 1947 I wanted from the start to make a composition of two figures, but when the first was made (that of the Tate Gallery) it was entirely impossible for me to make the second and I didn't even begin it. It was not until 1951 that I had the urge to try to make it and the plaster figure was exhibited at Maeght's in my exhibition of 1951. It was not what I wanted and immediately after the exhibition I destroyed the plaster figure which was never cast in bronze, it therefore no longer exists and I have since completely abandoned the idea of making it. Therefore the first figure: the pointing man will remain on its own.'

Reinhold Hohl points out that this sculpture is directly related to the 'Mannequin' of 1933 ('both describe space through a figure which marks the limits of its presence with an extended, space-encompassing arm') and that Ernst Scheidigger's well-known photograph of 'Man Pointing' standing at the intersection of the Rue Hippolyte-Maindron and the Rue du Moulin Vert (very near Giacometti's studio) gives the impression of a policeman on traffic duty - perhaps with Giacometti's consent.

Published in:
Ronald Alley, Catalogue of the Tate Gallery's Collection of Modern Art other than Works by British Artists, Tate Gallery and Sotheby Parke-Bernet, London 1981, p.278, reproduced p.278