Alberto Giacometti was born on 10 October 1901, in Borgonovo, Switzerland. He grew up in nearby Stampa, in the Val Bregaglia valley, where he would begin to paint and sculpt under his father’s guidance. Between 1919 and 1920, Giacometti would study painting, sculpture and drawing in Geneva before travelling to Italy where he would encounter the work of Alexander Archipenko and Paul Cézanne at the Biennale, as well as African and Renaissance masterpieces. In 1922, Giacometti settled in Paris, where he studied sculpture under Emile-Antoine Bourdelle and began to experiment with Cubist and Surrealist motifs.
Giacometti would exhibit his sculpture for the first time at the Salon des Tuileries in 1927, showing Spoon Woman, 1927 (Fondation Giacometti, Paris) and The Couple, 1927 (Fondation Giacometti, Paris), both of which illustrated the artist’s fascination with African and Oceanic sculpture. His subsequent series of women and flat heads would attract the attention of dealer Pierre Loeb, whose Galerie Pierre was associated with the Surrealists. Giacometti would join the Surrealists in 1931 and had his first solo exhibition at the Galerie Pierre Colle, Paris, in 1932. His first show in the US was at the Julien Levy Gallery, New York, in 1934. Although he was expelled from the Surrealist group in 1935, his Walking Woman, 1932 (Fondation Giacometti, Paris), featured in the International Surrealist Exhibition held at the Burlington Galleries, London, in 1936. During the 1930s, Giacometti was preoccupied with the form of the head; his three leading models were his brother, Diego, English artist, Isabel (Delmer), and professional model, Rita (Gueyfier).
Although Giacometti spent much of the Second World War in Geneva, during the early 1940s he became close with Pablo Picasso, Jean-Paul Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir. It was in the final years of the war that Giacometti settled upon the motif of the slender figure, standing (later walking) that would define his post-war oeuvre with Woman with Chariot, c. 1943-45 (Fondation Giacometti, Paris).
In 1946, Giacometti returned to Paris. In 1948, he had a solo show at Pierre Matisse Gallery, New York, and around 1951 would befriend Samuel Beckett. In 1955, he was the subject of retrospectives at the Arts Council Gallery, London, and the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York. In 1962, Giacometti won the Grand Prize for Sculpture at the XXXI Venice Biennale. Giacometti’s post-war production was defined by his increasingly tall sculptures of emaciated figures, many based on his wife Annette. Giacometti would also paint portraits. In 1965, he was awarded the Grand Prix National des Arts by the French government. He was also the subject of major exhibitions at the Tate Gallery London, the Museum of Modern Art, New York, and the Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam. Giacometti died on 11 January 1966, in Chur, Switzerland.
Giacometti’s work can be found in the following selected international collections: the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), New York; the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York; Art Institute of Chicago; National Gallery of Art, Washington D.C.; Philadelphia Museum of Art; San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMoMA); Städel Museum, Frankfurt; the Peggy Guggenheim Collection, Venice; Museo Nacional Thyssen-Bornemisza, Madrid; Kunstmuseum Basel; Fondation Beyeler, Basel; Musée National d'Art Moderne, Centre Pompidou, Paris; Musée Cantini, Marseille; the Tate Collection, London.
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