Alberto Giacometti was born in 1901 in Borgonovo, Switzerland and is one of the most celebrated 20th Century sculptors. Best known for his elongated bronze figures, he was also an accomplished painter and draughtsman. In addition, Giacometti is credited as being a seminal figure in the Surrealism movement.
He studied at the Fine Arts School in Geneva. After graduating he moved to Paris in 1922, where he experimented with Cubism and enrolled at the Ecole de la Grande Chaumière, under sculptor Antonie Bourdelle, an assistant of Rodin. By the early 1930s Giacometti had joined the Surrealist movement and became close to many of the group’s leading figures, such as André Breton, Joan Miro and Max Ernst. As Giacometti preferred to work from live models he was eventual dismissed from the Surrealist group.
From 1936 he turned his focus on the study of the human head and most importantly the expression in the sitter’s eyes. A shift in his work came in 1945 and his sculptures developed into the textured, elongated figures that he is most famed for today. Many view these works as symbolic reflections of Europe’s Post-War trauma as they evoke powerful emotions of isolation and melancholy, all things that many felt after witnessing the horrors of the Second World War. In Paris around this time he befriended Jean-Paul Sartre and his work became associated with Existentialist ideologies.
In 1948 Giacometti had his first solo exhibition at the Pierre Matisse Gallery in New York. As a result, he gained international recognition and his sculptures became hugely influential on the return of the human figure to art during the 1950s. Giacometti has had many museum exhibitions worldwide such as at the Tate Modern in London, MoMA in New York and the Centre Pompidou in Paris. His work can also be found in private and public collections like the Tate in London, Museum of Fine Arts in Boston and the Guggenheim in New York.
Giacometti died of heart disease in 1966, in Chur, Switzerland