Thin end of the wedge

Scotland is staging a rare retrospective of work by Alberto Giacometti. one of the giants of 20th century art. Susanna Beaumont discovers the well— rounded legend behind his acclaimed sculptures of slender, lone figures.

egend. or perhaps fact. has it that Alberto (iiacomctti wanted to make sculptures as rounded as Marilyn \lonroe‘s figure. But somehow he could never quite make it happen. As much as his fingers worked. kneading. paring and pinching the clay. the sculpted figures ended up stick—thin. Monroe‘s body may have been on (iiacomctti's mind. but the women fashioned by his hand were far from fleshy. Giacomctti is no failed artist. though. He is the maker of some of this century‘s most familiar and brilliant art works: the tall. taut and gaunt sculptures of women and men. brought to life in the late 80s Royal Bank of Scotland teleyision ad campaign. And for Patrick Elliott. Assistant Keeper at the Scottish National

‘Giacometti frequently visited brothels, which, according to French writer Jean Genet were like places of worship for Giacometti: ‘He went there to see himself on his knees in front of an implacable and distant goddess.’

Gallery Of Modern Art, he is up there with greats of modern art. “He‘s one of the big three along with Picasso and \latisse’ says Elliott. who has coordinated this. the biggest exhibition of (iiacometti‘s work to be seen in Britain since I ,_ the Tate retrospective of was. ' i A painter and draughtsman as well as a sculptor. (iiacometti was a true and talented all— rounder and ne\ er a slayc to stylistic alliances or ‘isms‘. After an early dalliance with the lrnpressionist style. he went on to flirt with (‘ubism before haying a brief. stormy fling with Surrealism. He then went pretty much stylistically solo.

Born in rural Switzerland in l‘)()l . Giacometti trained in Geneva and trayelled extensively in ttl in his atelier. 1957, photographed by Robrt Doisneau ltaly before arriying on the happening Paris art