Alberto Giacometti

Walking Woman I

1932–3–1936, cast 1966

In Tate Britain

Alberto Giacometti 1901–1966
Original title
Femme qui marche I
Object: 1499 × 276 × 378 mm
Presented by the artist and Mrs Erica Brausen 1972

Display caption

Giacometti joined the Surrealist group in 1931, when he was making disturbing and mysterious sculptures. The elongated forms of this figure echo ancient Egyptian and Greek art, but the fragmentary body is presented walking, as if encountered in a dream. At one stage, a head and feather-arms were added to the original plaster version. Giacometti removed them in recognition of the greater power of the simplified form.

Gallery label, July 2008

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Catalogue entry

Alberto Giacometti 1901-1966

T01519 Femme qui marche (Walking Woman) 1932-3/1936

Inscribed 'Alberto Giacometti' and 'EPREUVE TATE GALLERY' on upper surface of base
Bronze, 59 x 10 7/8 x 14 7/8 (150 x 27.5 x 37.5), including base
Presented by Alberto Giacometti and Erica Brausen 1972
Prov: Cast for presentation from a plaster in the possession of Erica Brausen, London
Lit: Reinhold Hohl, Alberto Giacometti: Sculpture Painting Drawing (London 1972), pp.103-4, 138-9, 300, plaster repr. p.70
Repr: Jacques Dupin, Alberto Giacometti (Paris 1962), p.218; Carlo Huber, Alberto Giacometti (Lausanne 1970), p.40 in colour

The plaster of this work in its original state appears in a drawing of Giacometti's studio dated 1932 (repr. Hohl, op. cit., p.292). Though partly obscured by a work-table standing in the way, it seems to resemble the finished work very closely, and has a similar, but possibly slightly larger, hollow below the breasts; the only major difference is that it seems to have no base.

In the following year, Giacometti changed it radically by adding two outstretched arms and a head. The left arm, pointing sideways towards the floor, ended in a bunch of feathers, and the right arm, extended sideways and upwards, ended in a flower-like hand; the head consisted of the neck and head of a cello. These modifications seem to have been made for the Surrealist exhibition at the Galerie Pierre Colle, Paris, in June 1933, probably because he felt that the work in its original state was insufficiently Surrealist. Installation photographs of the exhibition show it standing in one corner of the gallery, with the head and arms painted white. There is also a close-up photograph, reproduced in Dupin, op. cit., which shows it in the artist's studio, with the arms and head painted black, and which confirms that the feet were then larger and heavier to provide stability, but that it had no base. It was usually known in this state as 'Mannequin'.

Sir Roland Penrose recalls that it was sent to London, with arms but without a head, for inclusion in The International Surrealist Exhibition at the New Burlington Galleries in June-July 1936, and that when Giacometti came to London at the very beginning of the show, he decided to simplify the figure by cutting off the arms just below the shoulders. It was listed in the catalogue as 'Feminine Figure' 1932-3. Sir Roland's recollection is confirmed by a photograph in the Sunday Referee, 14 June 1936, p.16, which shows the sculpture with white arms but without a head, and is accompanied by the caption: 'The picture on the left is of a statue that has been temporarily withdrawn from the Exhibition'. In making these changes, Giacometti in fact more or less restored the sculpture to its original state.

Sir Roland bought the plaster from Giacometti shortly after the exhibition, but sold it again soon afterwards to Valerie Cooper. As Miss Cooper later wanted to have a bronze cast made from it, she sought the artist's permission through his agent in this country, Erica Brausen of the Hanover Gallery, and it was agreed in July 1955 that she should sell the plaster to the Hanover Gallery and that it should be cast in bronze at Fiorini's Foundry in London in an edition of four; one cast would go to her, one to the artist and the remaining two to the Hanover Gallery. When Giacometti revisited London years later, a few months before his death, he gave Miss Brausen permission to make two further casts, one for herself and the other (this one) for presentation to the Tate Gallery. Two of the other bronzes now belong to the Moderna Museet, Stockholm (2/4) and the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston (4/4). Yet another cast was made later on, after his death, specially for the Louisiana Museum at Humlebaek in Denmark, and is marked on the base in a manner similar to the Tate's.

A further version of this figure in plaster, apparently identical except for lacking the indentation below the breasts, is in the Peggy Guggenheim Foundation in Venice. It has also been cast in bronze. Diego Giacometti, who confirms that the 'Walking Woman' is the 'Mannequin' without the arms and head, says that the plaster in the Peggy Guggenheim Foundation was made from the other plaster and modified by filling in the hollow in the chest.

The original plaster for this work was lent to the Tate by Miss Brausen from 1969-72.

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, pp.276-7, reproduced p.276


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