The Fondation Maeght in Vence, France is holding an exceptional retrospective of the works of Alberto Giacometti, one of the most original artists of the twentieth century. Renowned for his elongated sculptures Giacometti was also an accomplished painter and draughtsman.The main subject of his creations is the representation of the vulnerability and existential anguish of the human race. I visited the show in August and was impressed by the sublime setting and layout of the actual sculptures. It was also refreshing to see rare examples of two dimensional work on display.This has added a new and well rounded perspective to his work.Have a look at our virtual tour of the exhibition by clicking on the screen below.- P C Robinson ArtLyst Curator
The curator particularly wished to exhibit works from the foundation’s collection and that of the Maeght family. These are joined by other exceptional works from international public and private collections, some being shown for the first time, to fully convey the curator’s intention.
While some early works and others from his Surrealist period are included, the exhibition will focus primarily on the post-war period and Giacometti’s stretched, long-limbed sculptures.
Among the 170 works in the exhibition are some 60 sculptures, including the iconic Homme qui marche (Walking Man). The Fondation Maeght is the only collection to own versions of this sculpture. They are all the more outstanding in that the bronzes were painted by Alberto Giacometti as opposed to the usual patina.
While some of Giacometti’s sculptures are known and admired the world over, his paintings, less numerous, have yet to be discovered. They account for a significant share of the exhibition, in particular portraits of Aimé and Marguerite Maeght whose friendship with Giacometti is the central premise of this exhibition.
Paintings, oils on canvas, wood and cardboard, together with over 80 drawings, extremely rare painted plaster casts, etchings and letters will also be shown. Certain works and letters carry a huge emotional charge, such as Giacometti’s drawings of Georges Braque on his deathbed, or letters to Aimé Maeght.
Photographs and films, some never previously shown in public, portray the artist at work in his studio.
of Alberto Giacometti
Born 10 October 1901 in Borgonovo, Switzerland.
Died 11 January 1966 in Chur, Switzerland.
1915-1919: Attended the Protestant secondary school in Schiers, near Chur, Switzerland. Produced his first sculpted or painted busts and first wood engravings. Left school to study at the Geneva School of Fine Arts, then the School of Arts and Crafts. Travelled in Italy for a year.
1922: Moved to Paris to study sculpture under Bourdelle at the Académie de la Grande Chaumière.
1925: First exhibition at the Salon des Tuileries where he showed Tête de Diego (Head of Diego) and an avant-garde piece (Torse (Torso)).
1926: Moved to 46, Rue Hippolyte-Maindron in Paris, which became his permanent studio. Sculpted a number of heads and figures (Le Couple (The Couple), La Femme-cuiller (Spoon Woman)).
1927: Exhibited at the Salon des Tuileries.
1929: Through Jean Cocteau, began to frequent society circles. Devoted himself to painting and sculpture while designing decorative objects for the interior designer Jean-Michel Frank and jewellery for the fashion designer Elsa Schiaparelli.
1930: Joined the Surrealist movement, founded by writer André Breton. Exhibited at Galerie Pierre Loeb in Paris, alongside Jean Arp and Joan Miró. His Surrealist reputation grew with La Boule suspendue (Suspended Ball). Met Louis Aragon, André Breton, Salvador Dalí, André Masson, etc. His brother Diego joined him in Paris.
1932: Contributed to and took part in the Salon des Surindépendants.
1935: First solo exhibition in New York, at Julien Levy Gallery. Produced L’Objet Invisible (Invisible Object), a masterpiece of the Surrealist period. Excluded from the Surrealist movement. New, geometrically precise, almost abstract sculptures brought him back to reality and to working from life (Le Cube (Cube), Tête (Head)).
1936-1940: Took part in numerous group exhibitions worldwide. Spent time with artists Balthus, Gruber, Tal Coat, and the Abstraction-Creation group. Frequented André Derain whom he greatly admired. Made New York art dealer Pierre Matisse his agent in the United States. Abandoned models and returned to working from memory. His sculptures became so tiny as to almost disappear completely.
1941: Became friends with Simone de Beauvoir and Jean-Paul Sartre. Spent the war years in Geneva with his brother, Diego.
1945: Returned to sculpting nudes and heads, determined not to let them shrink in size. He destroyed these works, preferring the same long-limbed, elongated figures: the only ones that fit his vision of reality.
1935-1947: Did not show any of his work.
1947: Took part in the International Surrealist Exhibition at Galérie Maeght. Aimé Maeght commissioned his first bronze sculptures.
1948: First solo exhibition at Pierre Matisse Gallery in New York. Jean-Paul Sartre wrote the foreword for the catalogue. Giacometti’s style was now established. Sculpted La Femme debout (Standing Woman), Groupe de trois hommes qui marchent (Group of three men walking), La Place (City Square), La Forêt (The Forest), La Clairière (The Clearing).
1949: First lithograph, a portrait of the poet Tristan Tzara. Married Annette Arm.
1951: First solo exhibition at Galerie Maeght in Paris, followed by others in 1954, 1957 and 1961. Produced lithographs for Derrière le Miroir, a journal published by Maeght. Francis Ponge wrote an essay on him in Cahiers d’Art, illustrated with photographs by Ernst Scheidegger.
1953-1954: Designed the sets for friend Samuel Beckett’s play Waiting for Godot. Writer Jean Genet posed for him. Jean-Paul Sartre wrote a second essay on him for Derrière le Miroir.
1956: Worked on a series of large sculptures of female standing figures, which he showed in the French Pavilion at the Venice Biennale (Les Femmes de Venise (Venetian Women)). Exhibition at the Bern Kunsthalle. In October, Isaku Yanaihara, a professor of French philosophy at Osaka University, began a series of poses that continued in 1957, 1959, 1960 and 1961.
1957: Jean Genet wrote L’Atelier d’Alberto Giacometti, which appeared in Derrière le Miroir then as a book, published by Maeght in 1963, with photographs by Ernst Scheidegger.
1958: First monograph exhibition in Tokyo at the Minami Gallery. Met Caroline, who posed for him from 1960 to 1965.
1959: The architect Gordon Bunshaft commissioned a monument for the Chase Manhattan Bank in New York. Giacometti absorbed himself in this work for a year, until spring 1960. He imagined a walking man, a standing woman and a large head on a pedestal. He saw these three pieces as the culmination of his research, but the project was abandoned. With work on the Fondation Maeght well under way, Aimé Maeght offered Alberto Giacometti an exhibition space on a par with his work, in the form of the Foundation’s courtyard. Giacometti painted four sculptures which he arranged in the courtyard.
1960: Giacometti continued his effort to portray the resemblance he found impossible to depict, in busts of Annette and paintings of Caroline. He concentrated on the eye and the intensity of gaze that seemed to him to convey the truth of the whole head.
1961: Publication of Michel Leiris’s book Vivantes Cendres Innommées illustrated with 52 etchings by Giacometti. Awarded the Carnegie Prize for Sculpture in Pittsburgh.
1962: International guest at the Venice Biennale, where he was awarded the Grand Prize for Sculpture. Maeght published the first complete Alberto Giacometti monograph, under the artist’s supervision.
1964: Inauguration, on 28 July 1964, of the Giacometti room and courtyard at the Fondation Marguerite et Aimé Maeght in Saint Paul de Vence, where the artist’s work features prominently. Awarded the Guggenheim International Prize for Painting by the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York. The photographer Eli Lotar began posing for busts, continuing until 1965. Produced numerous lithographs for Paris Sans Fin. Ernst Scheidegger filmed Giacometti at work in his studio on Rue Hippolyte-Maindron, and in Stampa.
1965: Three retrospectives took him to London (The Tate Gallery), New York (Museum of Modern Art) and Copenhagen (Louisiana Museum). Awarded the National Grand Prize for Art by the French Ministry of Cultural Affairs.
11 January 1966, Alberto Giacometti died of heart disease and bronchitis at the hospital in Chur, Switzerland. He was buried on January 15 in Borgonovo, Switzerland.