Biography of Famous Italian Sculptor Alberto Giacometti

About the famous Italian sculptor Alberto Giacometti, biography and history of his sculptures.

Alberto Giacometti (1901-1966). "It's impossible to finish," Giacometti once said, when asked why he never considered his sculptures completed. The more a sculptor tries to finish, he maintained, the more he has the feeling of starting all over again. That, very often, is what Giacometti did. After a day of sketching or painting he would destroy the day's work and begin again, not satisfied he had captured the model. It's said that for every work of his in existence 10 others were burned, torn up, or hacked to bits before they could leave his studio.

Giacometti was one of the few important 20th-century sculptors whose father had been an artist. He was born at Stampa in Italy. At 18 he studied at the Ecole des Arts et Metiers in Geneva, then toured Italy, sketching and studying classic architecture. In 1922 he arrived at Paris and went to work for Bourdelle. Until then Giacometti had been a traditionalist who idolized the Baroque and Renaissance masters. After his service with Bourdelle he became an abstract-impressionist. But more than just his master's influence was responsible for the conversion. In his own words, Giacometti "couldn't sculpt a human head."

With his imagination running free, Giacometti became a more powerful artist. For a while he toyed with cubism. His cubist Spoon Woman (1926) proved a hit. But he was not the sort to be pigeonholed. As soon as biographers began to call him a cubist he ceased to be one. In the early 1930s he turned to surrealism, inspired by Dali's oils. During that decade he reigned as leader of the surrealist school of sculpture, producing such works as The Palace at 4 A.M. and Woman Walking. Gradually his figures became longer and thinner, more and more exaggerated. Finally in the early '40s he did what he loved best to do--he started all over. This time his new discovery was miniature sculpture, which he stayed with for 5 years. Then he returned to monumental proportions almost as a celebration of the war's end.

The 1950s proved one of his busiest periods. He exhibited at the Vienna Biennial in 1956, and a retrospective exhibit was staged in London by the Arts Council of Great Britain in 1955. In 1959 his works were shown as part of a major "Holder to Klee" exhibit at the same Arts Council. The last major showing of Giacometti's sculpture in his lifetime was at London's Tate Gallery in 1965. He died the following year at the age of 65.

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