scene in l922. Here he took art classes and lived a hand-to-mouth style of life in Montparnasse. In the late 20s. Giacometti became caught up with the Surrealists.
Crucial to the work of these tradition-bashing, subversive. testosterone-loaded Surrealist lads was sexual imagery. Giacometti likewise often employed violent sexual imagery in his work of this time. His Woman With Her Throat Cut is an assemblage of bronze limbs and bones. With a splayed rib cage. a twisted spine and open legs. it may have been inspired by an account of one of Jack the Ripper’s murders. but displayed at near floor level. it also resembles a predatory scorpion or perhaps a crude man-trap ready to ensnare.
By the late I930s. disillusionment had set in. Giacometti had had enough of aggressive sexual politics and the praying mantis-obsessed Surrealists. He was becoming increasingly interested in drawing from life-models. and to supplement his income was taking commissions for interior decoration. For Andre Breton. the self-styled ‘Pope‘ and all-time heavy of Surrealism. this smacked of a big-time sell-out. Giacometti quit the Surrealist milieu before he was pushed. later candidly dismissing his Surrealist works as masturbation.
Giacometti was fast becoming intrigued with human form and how best to describe it. He drew and painted portraits of frenzied and brilliant intensity. Yet it was perspective that
A painter and draughtsman as well as a sculptor, Giacometti was a truly well- rounded artist, never a slave to stylistic alliances or ‘isms’.
really perplexed and fascinated Giacometti. How could he best illustrate the figure as it changes from being minute. blurred and almost insignificant. growing in size and significance as it draws nearcr‘.’ His solo figures. modelled on both a minuscule and larger scale. were fired by this fascination.
Often positioned on plinths or encased in box- like frames. Giacometti’s slender, stretched figures seem caught in time and space. appearing to occupy a psychological no man’s land. Even when there are a cluster of wiry and spindly figures. each holds its own in isolation. And it is these somewhat angst-ridden. solitary figures. that have got Giacometti billed as the Existentialist-thinking person‘s artist, particularly as by 1939. Giacometti was hanging out on the Left Bank with both Samuel Beckett and Jean-Paul Sartre. figurcheads of Existentialism.
What really astounds is Giacometti’s extraordinary ability to give his sculptures their own perspective. What from a distance appears to be just an elegant thread of bronze or a roughly-made bust. becomes on closer viewing. an intensely worked human form. Giacometti was in many ways the maker ofearly interactive art. He expects his audience to work. to move towards and away from his sculptures — like when you spot someone you think you know on the street. your eyes work to reveal their features and identity as you walk towards them.
But back to women. for others besides Monroe were on Giacometti’s mind. He was devoted to his mother. and numerous women fell for his tousled. somewhat ravaged good looks — he had an abundance of affairs. He also frequently visited brothels. which. according to
ALBERTO GIACOMETTI FEATURE
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.’ Many of the sculptor‘s works were modelled on prostitutes. There is nothing titillating about these figures. though — Giacometti was after a degree of anonymity. or perhaps distant awe. They are intensely worked and as delicate as his male figures.
In his later years. though famous and increasingly well off. Giacometti continued to live frugally in Paris bed-sit land. He worked obsessively, in search of elusive perfection: ‘l do not know whether i work in order to make something or in order to know why I cannot make what I want to make.’ he said. He died in 1966 leaving a legacy of some of this century's most intriguing and mesmerising art works. Alberto Giacometti (1901—1966) is at the Scottish National Gallery Of Modern Art, Edinburgh, Saturdctv l June—Sunday 22 September:
Clockwise from left: Standing woman c. 1952; three Men Walking 1948; Woman with her throat cut 1932; Caroline 1965
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