Swiss artist Alberto Giacometti was a noted draughtsman who became a highly recognized surrealist sculptor. His spindly, sketched three-dimensional works share a characteristic aesthetic with his drawings and prints.
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Alberto Giacometti (Swiss, 1901–1966)
Alberto Giacometti was born October 10, 1901, in Borgonovo, Switzerland, and grew up in the nearby town of Stampa. His father, Giovanni, was a Post-Impressionist painter. From 1919 to 1920, he studied painting at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts and sculpture and drawing at the Ecole des Arts et Métiers in Geneva. In 1920, he traveled to Italy, where he was impressed by the works of Alexander Archipenko and Paul Cézanne at the Venice Biennale. He was also deeply affected by African and Egyptian art and by the masterpieces of Giotto and Tintoretto. In 1922, Giacometti settled in Paris, making frequent visits to Stampa, and occasionally attended Antoine Bourdelle’s sculpture classes.
In 1927, the artist moved into a studio with his brother, Diego Giacometti, his lifelong companion and assistant, and exhibited his sculpture for the first time at the Salon des Tuileries, Paris. His first show in Switzerland, shared with his father, was held at the Galerie Aktuaryus, Zurich, in 1927. The following year, Giacometti met André Masson, and by 1930 he was a participant in the Surrealist circle until 1934. His first solo show took place in 1932 at the Galerie Pierre Colle, Paris. In 1934, his first American solo exhibition opened at the Julien Levy Gallery, New York. During the early 1940s, he became friends with Simone de Beauvoir, Pablo Picasso, and Jean-Paul Sartre. From 1942, Giacometti lived in Geneva, where he associated with the publisher Albert Skira.
He returned to Paris in 1946. In 1948, he was given a solo show at the Pierre Matisse Gallery, New York. The artist’s friendship with Samuel Beckett began around 1951. In 1955, he was honored with retrospectives at the Arts Council Gallery, London, and the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York. He received the Sculpture Prize at the 1961 Carnegie International in Pittsburgh and the Grand Prize for Sculpture at the 1962 Venice Biennale, where he was given his own exhibition area. In 1965, Giacometti exhibitions were organized by the Tate Gallery, London, the Museum of Modern Art, New York, the Louisiana Museum, Humlebaek, Denmark, and the Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam. That same year, he was awarded the Grand Prix National des Arts by the French government. Giacometti died January 11, 1966, in Chur.