Alberto Giacometti

Borgonovo, Bregaglia, Suiza 1901 - Coira, Suiza 1966

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The Swiss artist Alberto Giacometti is widely regarded as one of the most important figures of the 20th century and his work continues to influence contemporary art still today. Giacometti's art, which got expression through painting but sculpture above all, is characterized by a focus on the human figure and the use of his iconic, abstract, elongated forms. Giacometti was raised in a family of artists and started sculpting at an early age. His father, Giovanni Giacometti, was a well-known post-Impressionist painter, and his younger brother, Diego, was also a sculptor. In 1919, he enrolled in the École des Beaux-Arts in Geneva, showing in this initial phase his appreciation for the pictorial technique of the Divisionism, still looking for his own personal artistic expression. In fact, in the early 1920s he travelled to Italy, first to Venice accompanying his father, Swiss commissioner at the Biennale, then to Padua, Florence and finally Rome, copying and becoming passionate about Tintoretto, Giotto, Egyptian art and Borromini's Baroque, but also entering in contact with the Futurists. He moved to Paris where he studied under the sculptor Antoine Bourdelle. In the “Ville Lumière” he became part of the city's thriving artistic community. He was heavily influenced by the works of the Cubists and Surrealists, and his Parisian sculptures reflect it. During this time, Giacometti became friends with many of the leading artists and intellectuals of the day, including H. Laurens, C. Brancusi, J. Miró, S. Dalì and later with Picasso and Jean-Paul Sartre. In 1928, Giacometti joined the Surrealist group, getting to know important art dealers such as Pierre Loeb and Michael Leiris. During the seven years he was part of the group his works were predominantly based on memory, imagination and often the unconscious. He ended his relationship with the Surrealists in 1937, losing friends and merchants due to his desire to return to the human figure and the study of models. The relationships between space and environment are suggested by the slender plasticity of the figures, which sometimes recall the influence of the Etruscan sculpture. In painting, his interest shifted from myth and dream to direct observation of reality, which was accompanied by a more aware concern for materials and implied a significant stylistic transformation that led him to a kind of schematic naturalism. He remained in Geneva throughout the Second World War, and after the war, he suffered from a deep sense of existential despair and struggled to find meaning in his art. In the 1950, his work underwent a significant transformation. His figures started becoming progressively smaller, lengthening and slimming in a disturbing way, corresponding to his vision of reality and desire to capture the lightness of a man who walks on his own legs. His preferred themes, constantly revisited, were his family members, the objects around him, and landscapes. The figures are fixed, rigidly frontal, and immobile. The frame that Giacometti builds has the function of isolating and creating emptiness around his characters, making his work from the 1950s a powerful expression of the human condition. His fame spread internationally: since 1950, his individual and collective exhibitions multiply in Europe and America: NY, Chicago, London, Copenhagen, Zurich, and Paris, while in 1962 he obtained the grand prize at the Venice Biennale, among other notable recognitions. Despite the abstract and often minimal nature of his work, Giacometti's art remains incredibly powerful and has had a profound impact on the art world. He died in 1966, but his influence continues to be felt, and his work is widely recognized as some of the most important and innovative of the 20th century.