“Celebrated as a sculptor, painter and draughtsman, Giacometti’s distinctive elongated figures are some of the most instantly recognisable works of modern art. This exhibition reasserts Giacometti’s place alongside the likes of Matisse, Picasso and Degas as one of the great painter-sculptors of the twentieth century.” Tate (2018)
I was aware of Giacometti’s sculpture and was lucky enough to see this piece at the National Gallery of Art in Washington. It is positioned in a walkway that connects the traditional old museum with the new contemporary wing. This itself speaking to the place Giacometti holds in linking realism to abstract and conceptual art. It was a particularly dynamic and engaging piece that attracted a lot of attention from passers-by -, especially kids. I particularly liked the dynamic striding pose that made you almost want to get out of its way; it is so preoccupied with its mission – to move between to old and the new worlds of art that he won’t even make eye contact with you. Thi comes from the pose of course but is accentuated by the use of negative space between the legs and arms, and the rough texture of the rendering – looking like something blurred in motion.
What I wasn’t aware of though was his painting and drawings.
Alberto Giacometti, Jean Genet 1954 or 1955, Tate (2018)
Alberto Giacometti, Caroline 1965, Tate (2018)
The first thing that strikes me is the same sense of dynamism. This time the sense of movement comes from the scratchy overlying layering of marks. Again the images look like they are in motion – or perhaps the viewer is – doing a double take or something. That said the images are firmly rooted in the plane of the picture. I’m reminded a bit of some of the work of Francis Bacon who painted highly dynamic images and then caged then in the picture with faint boxes or frames within which the subjects were confined. For example, this study for a portrait (1952) which I think is at Tate Britain – I must go back and see it again.
Getting back to Giacometti – the next thing that strikes me is the limited palette. The use of colour at all gives another dimension to the piece the broken and almost random application adds to the dynamic feel – it causes the outline to shift around in front of your eyes.
This piece, a seated man, shows the technique well. The lines upon lines not only build up an interesting image but show, presumably, the how the sitter moved around during the sitting. Its almost like a dynamic version of a cubist approach – showing different views through movement over time rather than space.
I had a bit of a play using continuous line scribbles and scratches.
Tate. (2018). Alberto Giacometti 1901-1966 | Tate. [online] Available at: http://www.tate.org.uk/art/artists/alberto-giacometti-1159 [Accessed 20 Jan. 2018].