About the Paintings of Alberto Giacometti

by Nora Zavalczki

Alberto Giacometti was a Swiss artist who spent part of his artistic career in Paris. The artist is best known for his thin, elongated sculptures. However, the artist also painted. The paintings of Alberto Giacometti are similar in style to his sculptures and they have also been linked to the existentialist movement in literature, because of the close friendship between the artist and philosopher Jean Paul Sartre.

Giacometti Paintings

The artist was familiar painting from early childhood, because his father was the neo-impressionist painter, Giovanni Giacometti. Alberto used to draw in his father's studio. Giacometti joined the École des Beaux-Arts and the École des Arts Industriels in Geneva in 1919, and moved on to Paris to study sculpture. Giacometti's early work consists of paintings, which can be categorized as neo-impressionist. The artist started to develop his unique painting style during and after the war years. However, his paintings came to be recognized and admired only in the late 1950s and after the artist received the prize for sculpture at the Venice Biennial in 1962.

Painting Subjects

Giacometti painted mostly heads and standing figures, however, he also painted a few still lifes. In his early paintings, the artist used models; they had to go through several sittings until the artist finished the piece, because he wanted the paintings to look exactly like the model. However, Giacometti also relied on his memory to render his portraits and to create his mature style works. One of the best known paintings is a portrait of the artist's mother, Annetta Giacometti-Stampa, painted in 1950 and entitled simply "The Artist's Mother." This painting announces Giacometti's mature style of painting and creating, which was referred to as art "of existential reality," as his friend, Jean Paul Sartre put it in a catalog preface.

The Human Figure

The characters in Giacometti's paintings are elongated, resembling his sculptures. The human figure dissolves into a wire-like structure. The figures don't have a clear outline and the drawing is opposed to the academic style. In his early paintings, Giacometti wanted to paint the figures to resemble the model, but his later paintings bear very little resemblance to the model. Giacometti didn't intend to create people that were correctly drawn, but he was after the power and expression of the character. The paintings also contain a web of lines, which create three-dimensionality in the works and place the human figure in a space filled with mystery.

Colors and Brushstrokes

Giacometti used oil colors in his paintings and he prepared his works on canvas. Tones of gray and brown are predominant in Giacometti's mature paintings. The prevalence of these tones suggest sobriety and mystery. The brushstrokes are linear, aggressive and rough and they give the appearance of a sketch or unfinished work to the paintings. The artist composed his works using several thin layers of color. On portraits, he used thick layers of colors. Around the edges of most of his paintings, the artist used only a thin layer of color.

Photo Credits

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