Born: October 10, 1901/ Borgonovo, Switzerland
Died: January 11, 1966/Chur, Switzerland
Alberto Giacometti was a Swiss sculptor, painter, and draughtsman. As the son of the post-
Impressionist painter Giovanni Giacometti and godson of Cuno Amiet, Alberto grew up around
artists and began painting and sculpting while still fairly young.
Alberto was born in Borgonovo, a village close to the Swiss-Italian border and raised in the Val
Bregaglia Alpine Valley. He was educated in Geneva and Italy and later in Paris. His brothers
Diego and Bruno also grew up to become artists. Raised in an artistic atmosphere, Alberto
created his first bust in 1914–15 and oil painting in 1915.
Giacometti moved to Paris in 1922 to study under the sculptor Antoine Bourdelle at the
Academie de la Grande Chaumiere. He was also influenced by the art of Jacques Lipchitz and
Fernand Leger, as can be seen from his early nudes and Cubist sculptures. By the mid-1920s,
Giacometti had developed an interest in African art, which had become popular in Europe
through the work of artists like Pablo Picasso and Andre Derain. The young artist first made
a mark with the works “Spoon Woman” and “The Couple,” shown in Paris at the Salon de
Tuileries in 1927. It was in the same year that he had his first solo exhibition at the Galerie
Aktuaryus in Zurich. Non-western art had a deep influence on him and following these early
successes, Giacometti began experimenting with creating flat heads and female figures, bringing
him to the attention of the Pierre Loeb Gallery, known for promoting the Surrealists.
In 1931, Giacometti became an active member of Andre Bretton’s group and the Surrealist
movement. Surrealist techniques, including dreamlike visions and magical treatment of objects
and figures remained an important part of his work even after he was expelled from the group in
1935, in spite of being one of its more prominent and gifted artists. “The Walking Woman,” a
sculpture made in 1932 was included in the Surrealist exhibition of 1936 in London.
Areas of Interest
Of Giacometti’s impressive body of work, the two major areas of interest that stand out are his
investigations into the nature of the human head and his substantial work on utilitarian objects
from ancient and primitive societies. In the second category, Giacometti contributed to the art
of sculpture the idea of “mobile and mute objects.” He also began making utilitarian objects
like wall light, lamps, and vases, which were sold by the interior designer Jean-Michel Frank.
Giacometti and Frank collaborated over many years on projects in Europe and even as far as
However, it was his concern with the head that lay at the center of his artistic search. While for
most this was a common subject, Giacometti felt compelled to study the head and particularly
eyes as the core of human life. He began working on the subject regularly from the early 1930s
and among the models for his studies were his brother Diego, friend Isabel Delmer, and Rita
Gueyfier, a professional model.
Giacometti’s encounters with the French philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre and his Japanese
translator, the philosopher Isaku Yanaihara were significant and led the former to publish two
significant essays on the artist’s work. He preferred to use the people around him as models,
particularly his wife Annette and brother Diego. He eschewed classical perspective and depicted
his models as he saw them — at times fragmented and deformed but always changing.
Having made his first prints in the company of his father, Giacometti continued to experiment
with the medium using wood, engraving, lithography, aquatint, and etching. He illustrated a
number of books and was friends with many writers and poets. He began making his signature
figures, tall and thin, from 1947 onwards. Giacometti won numerous awards, including at
the Pittsburgh International (1961), Venice Biennale (1962), as well as the Guggenheim
International Award for Painting (1964).
Giacometti died on January 11, 1966 in Chur. He was suffering from heart disease and chronic
bronchitis. Around 5,000 of his works are held at the Fondation Alberto et Annette Giacometti
based in Paris.
Born: October 10, 1901
Place of Birth: Borgonovo, Switzerland
Known For: Sculpting, Painting, Printmaking
Movement: Surrealism, Expressionism, Cubism
Works Exhibited At: Berggruen Museum, Berlin; Bunder Kunstmuseum, Chur; Tate, London;
Tehran Museum of Contemporary Art, Tehran; Kunsthaus, Zurich
Died: January 11, 1966
LOTS SOLD (1988 - 2010)
TOTAL SALES (1988 - 2010)
By Judd Tully | November 6, 2014
An Impressionist-era painting by Edouard Manet starred in an otherwise modest Impressionist and Modern evening sale on Wednesday that tallied $165,635,000.The Manet's higher-than-expected...
By Judd Tully | November 5, 2014
Turbo-charged by two 20th-century sculpture masterworks, Sotheby’s Impressionist and Modern evening sale racked up a record $422,110,000, the firm’s highest tally in its long history.That said,...
By Judd Tully,Art+Auction | November 3, 2014
With the global art market continuing to perform like a race-proven thoroughbred, this season offers a number of blue-chip trophy contenders, led by a fabulous, rare-to-market Alberto Giacometti...