Alberto Giacometti, 1901-1966

Alberto Giacometti,  Three Men Walking II,  1949, bronze, 30 1/8 x 13 x 12 3/4 in.

Alberto Giacometti, Three Men Walking II, 1949, bronze, 30 1/8 x 13 x 12 3/4 in.

By Lori Stranger

Alberto Giacometti, born in Borgonova, Switzerland on the 10th October, 1901, was a sculptor, painter, draughtsman and printmaker. 

In 1919 Giacometti entered the École des Arts Industriels in Geneva. Here he studied painting and sculpture under the pointillist painter David Estoppey and the sculptor Maurice Sarkissoff. In May 1920 Giacometti visited Italy and was inspired by the powerful anatomical focus of Jacopo Tintoretto, Giotto’s psychologically intense figures and the Egyptian art at the Archaeological Museum in Florence. The effects of these encounters can be seen throughout his career.  Soon after, in 1922, he moved to Paris, the artistic hub of pre-war Europe, to study as a sculptor under Antoine Bourdelle, who had been an assistant of Rodin.

In 1926 he exhibited his first sculpture, Spoon Woman (1926-27) at the Salon des Tuileries.  The abstract work symbolised a separation from his predecessors, reflecting a more Primitivist design exploring female sexuality in the African Dan culture.  His famous 1932 work, Women with her Throat Cut reveals an abstract, innovative design eliminating the use of a plinth or pedestal, effectively implicating the viewer in the violent rape and murder.  Invited to join the Surrealist movement, he was published in the Surrealist journal, Documents in 1931; however, his emersion in the Surrealist style was only temporary.

Following the German invasion of France in June 1940, Giacometti and his brother fled Paris, only to return in 1946.  Influenced by the horrors and brutality of the war, Giacometti diverged to a more expressionist form.  His 1947 bronze sculpture, Head of a Man on a Rod depicts a human head impaled on a rod, which can be seen to represent a man overcome by post-traumatic stress.  Similarly, Three Men Walking II (1949) physically encapsulates the psychological effects of the post-war era; the figures, although grouped together, lack individual identities. They are alienated and alone.

Giacometti remained a prolific artist until 1966 when he died of pericarditis at the Kantonnpital in Chur, Switzerland.  His ability to represent the psychological state of a generation, his continued exploration of the complex human form and his unique styles of abstraction and expressionism entrench him as a crucial artist of his time.


Artsy, “Alberto Giacometti” profile.  Accessed 7th October, 2017.

The Art Story, “Alberto Giacometti” profile.  Accessed 7th October, 2017.