Alberto Giacometti

The Studio I


In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Alberto Giacometti 1901–1966
Original title
Atelier I
Lithograph on paper
Support: 540 × 439 mm
Purchased 1984

Catalogue entry

Alberto Giacometti 1901-1966

P77122 The Studio I 1954

Lithograph on Arches paper 540 x 439 (21 1/4 x 17 1/4) Published by Editions Maeght, Paris, in an edition of 30
Inscribed ‘Alberto Giacometti' below image b.r., ‘7/30' b.l. and ‘Atelier I' on back b.r.
Purchased from Berggruen & Cie, Paris (Grant-in-Aid) 1984
Lit: Herbert Lust, Giacometti: The Complete Graphics, New York 1970, p.78, repr. p.36

P77122 is one of a series of seventeen black and white lithographs shown at Giacometti's exhibition at the Galerie Maeght in 1954. All but two of the prints depict a number of the artist's sculptures situated within his studio. Although several prints feature real figures the majority, including ‘The Studio I', are populated by inanimate sculptures and studio furniture alone. Clearly the artist was intrigued by the process of studying his own finished sculptures. When questioned about his feelings towards this process he commented ‘Sometimes I'm surprised I was so good, and sometimes that I missed the mark so far. But of course when drawing them one sees them in an entirely different way, one sees their mood rather than their form' (Lust 1970, p.74).

Giacometti's Paris studio was at 46 rue Hippolyte Maindron, off the rue d'Alésia, and he worked there almost continuously from 1927 until his death in 1965. Until shortly after the Second World War, when he rented the adjacent studio, the space depicted in P77122 was both studio and living space. In 1947 he was joined there by Annette Arm, from Geneva, whom he married in 1949.

Three sculptures are instantly recognisable among the medley of works gathered in the small space depicted. Dominating the height of the image is ‘Pointing Man' 1947, of which the gesturing arms tower above the floor based display. The Tate Gallery owns a cast of this work (N05939). Prominent among the assorted smaller figures and busts on the lower levels is ‘The Dog' 1951 (repr. Alberto Giacometti, exh. cat., Museum of Modern Art, New York 1965, p.62). The slumped head with dangling ears and the languid curve of haunches and drooping chest were depicted in at least seven lithographs of 1954 emphasising Giacometti's attachment to the form, of which he said ‘It's me. One day I saw myself in the street just like that. I was the dog' (New York exh. cat. 1965, p.62). Alongside ‘The Dog', as if accompanying it for a walk, one recognises Giacometti's ‘The Cat' 1951 (repr. Alberto Giacometti, exh. cat., Galerie Beyeler, Basle 1963, no.48) whose sharp angularity and linear tautness contrast sharply with curves of the dog. ‘The Cat' is also seen in five lithographs from the series. Apart from ‘The Horse', these three principal sculptures in P77122 are the only identifiable works which recur in the sequence of lithographs made in 1954. All three were repeated in a similar configuration in the slightly later version of the same scene, ‘The Studio II' (repr. Lust 1970, p.28), which broadens out horizontally to include the pronounced arching neck of ‘The Horse' on the left. The narrow triangle made by the legs of ‘Pointing Man' appears again in ‘Head of a Cat' 1954 (repr. Lust 1970, p.22). This lithograph, which excludes ‘The Dog' and the detailing of the left and upper areas of ‘The Studio I', appears to be a partial view of the same scene. Behind the right leg of ‘Pointing Man' is a circular motif which also appears in both versions of ‘The Studio' and is very pronounced in ‘The Studio II'.

P77122 and the other lithographic studies of Giacometti's works in the studio were anticipated by a number of lithographs in 1951 which illustrated the catalogue for his 1951 Galerie Maeght exhibition and were reproduced alongside the catalogue essay by the poet Michel Leiris in Derrière le Miroir, 1951, pp.39-40. There is also a painting entitled ‘The Studio' 1951 (repr. Giacometti, exh. cat., AC, 1965 fig.40). When compared with the later studies, strong links are immediately apparent. In the earlier prints and the painting, the viewpoint has been swung round to the right so that the artist has a side view of the large figure. In both the painting and the print, which appeared on the cover of Derrière le Miroir, a large circle/oval form is seen prominently, behind the right leg of ‘Pointing Man' in the lithograph and adjacent to it in the painting. This is the same unidentified motif seen in P77122. In addition, the lithograph of 1951 shows ‘The Cat' (only its hind legs are visible) in exactly the same place as it is shown in the lithographs of 1954. Various interpretations are possible. Giacometti may have drawn from memory, reworking in 1954 images first seen and recorded in 1951. The lithographs of 1954 may simply derive from original studies of three years earlier. Having found the still life arrangement of sculptures satisfying in 1951, he may have repeated it in 1954. Alternatively, the view may be imaginary. According to Lust, Giacometti did make some preliminary drawings for the 1954 cycle of lithographs in the preceding months, including a sketch for ‘The Studio II' (repr. Lust 1970, p.193) which shows all the principal features in place. Despite such preparatory works, the lithographs of 1954 - including P77122 - retain a firmness of touch and an informality which suggests speed of execution. They are in fact very like crayon drawings, indicative of Giacometti's customary practice of drawing with lithographic crayon on transfer paper rather than stone. The technique excluded the possibility of erasing lines; thus every mark made by the artist is preserved.

Although numerous photographs of Giacometti's studio have been published, it is impossible to identify precisely the location depicted in P77122, a wall or corner which recurs in other views of the space in the 1954 series and in earlier views. The background to the collection of sculptures depicted appears as a rectangular frame with the central vertical bar almost exactly bisecting the vertical rectangle of the image. While the frame appears to be a window, photographs of Giacometti's studio (Von Photographen gesehen: Alberto Giacometti, Zurich 1986, pp.56, 66-9, 74 and 81) show windows which in addition to multiple vertical bars are heavily draped. This suggests that if the image is intended to be a window it refers only in the loosest way to any actual window in the studio. While in the case of a painter-sculptor the rectilinear background design might suggest the reverse of a stretched canvas, Giacometti is not known to have made any paintings of this size.

Published in:
The Tate Gallery 1984-86: Illustrated Catalogue of Acquisitions Including Supplement to Catalogue of Acquisitions 1982-84, Tate Gallery, London 1988, pp.370-1

You might like