Focused on a series of sculptures from a crucial decade in Alberto Giacometti’s life, a period marked by a deep personal and stylistic crisis for the artist, this London exhibition provides a deep insight into the development of the influential Swiss sculptor and painter’s practice, and the emergence of the more familiar style of his later work.
The exhibition includes over 18 sculptures from this period, many of which are exhibited in the UK for the first time. It takes its cue from a letter that Giacometti wrote to his New York dealer and friend Pierre Matisse (1947) which accompanied a group of sculptures planned for an exhibition at Matisse’s gallery. “Here is the list of sculptures that I promised you” Giacometti wrote, “but I could not send it without explaining a certain succession of facts… without which it would make no sense”.
What followed is a fascinating account of his thoughts on sculpture and a testimony to his relentless pursuit to express truth in his work, a mission about which Jean-Paul Sartre wrote: “Between the model and the material there seems to be an unbridgeable chasm; yet the chasm exists for us only because Giacometti took hold of it.” It was also in this decade that Giacometti adopted the retreat to memory that is now considered so fundamental to his oeuvre.
Giacometti’s letter reveals the crisis which gradually led him to withdraw from traditional sculptural techniques and to experiment with Primitivism, Cubism, and Surrealism. He later wrote that: “During those years… I saw anew the bodies that attracted me in reality and the abstract forms that seemed true to me in sculpture, but I wanted to make one without losing the other.”
The exhibition, which stems from this crossroads in the artist’s life, brings together a rare body of plaster, bronze, and wood sculptures that reconstitutes the importance of this period, including seminal works such as Tête (Autoportrait), 1927, Femme Couchée, 1929, and Objet Désagréable, 1931.
Alberto Giacometti: In His Own Words – Sculptures 1925-34, until 9 April, Luxembourg & Dayan, 2 Savile Row, London, W1S 3PA.
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1. Alberto Giacometti (1901-1966) Composition, 1927-8 Bronze 31.3 x 18.1 x 11.6 cm. © The Estate of Alberto Giacometti (Fondation Giacometti, Paris and ADAGP, Paris), licensed in the UK by ACS and DACS, London 2016.Private Collection, Courtesy of Luxembourg & Dayan.