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Alberto Giacometti

Alberto Giacometti

Alberto Giacometti


As you read this biography of the renowned sculptor Alberto Giacometti, prepare yourself for a journey into the mind of an artistic genius and the deep inner torment that both fueled his creativity and made his life a living hell. Giacometti's obsession with the human form led him to create some of the most iconic sculptures of the 20th century. Still, it also left him perpetually unsatisfied and filled with self-doubt. His life was an endless cycle of creation and destruction as he struggled in vain to capture the essence of human existence.

Through his art, Giacometti conveyed the loneliness and alienation of modern humanity in a post-World War II world. Yet few who view his evocative sculptures in museums around the globe understand the anguish behind those elongated forms. 

Giacometti never gave up his quest for truth and meaning in art. His tireless search for the essence of humanity is a reminder of the boundless depth and complexity harboured within each person we encounter. Though fame and success eluded him for most of his life, Giacometti remained devoted to his artistic vision. His perseverance in the face of self-doubt and outside criticism is a testament to the power of purpose and passion. 

Giacometti's life story is a sobering yet inspiring glimpse into the inner workings of a singular mind determined to render the human experience with honesty and vulnerability. His works give form to the quiet moments of beauty and sorrow that make us human.

This biography provides a window into Giacometti's complex psyche and a more profound understanding of how his angst shaped his artistic vision. Prepare to be moved and unsettled in equal measure as you journey into the mind of the tormented genius Alberto Giacometti.

More Facts

Name: Alberto

Surname: Giacometti

Lives & Works:


Date of Birth:

Date of Death: 1966


Table of Contents

Table of Contents

Alberto Giacometti BIOGRAPHY

Alberto Giacometti
Image Credit: Gagosian

Early Life and Artistic Development: Giacometti’s Childhood and Surrealist Period

As a child growing up in Geneva, Switzerland, Alberto Giacometti showed a precocious talent for art. His father was a Post-Impressionist painter who encouraged his son’s artistic pursuits from an early age. Giacometti’s prodigious skill led to his first solo exhibition at age 14 and studies at the École des Beaux-Arts and Académie de la Grande Chaumière in Paris.

In 1922, Giacometti discovered Surrealism and became associated with the Surrealist group, creating dreamlike sculptures and paintings during this period. His early sculptures incorporated found objects and explored themes of sexuality and desire. Giacometti’s images from this time also often featured distorted and elongated figures.

By the mid-1930s, Giacometti’s style evolved. He moved away from Surrealism towards a new focus on the human figure. His sculptures became more realistic but bony and gaunt. Giacometti was obsessed with representing the human form as he saw it—in all its frailty and anguish. It marked the beginning of his mature and distinctive style that would define his career.

Giacometti’s transition to his signature style was complete by the end of World War II. His figures were now unmistakably his: rail-thin, elongated silhouettes that seemed to capture a sense of postwar malaise and humanity’s existential angst. Giacometti’s triumphant return to the art scene in postwar Paris solidified his status as an influential proponent of modern figurative sculpture. From his roots in Surrealism grew an artistic vision entirely his own.

What is Alberto Giacometti known for?

Image Credit: Artsper Magazine

Alberto Giacometti was a renowned Swiss sculptor and painter. He is best known for his distinctive elongated figures, which became his signature style. Giacometti’s sculptures often depicted the human form in a way that conveyed a sense of isolation and existential angst. His work explored themes of human existence, identity, and the search for meaning in the modern world. 

Giacometti’s sculptures are characterized by their thin, fragile appearance as if the figures are on the verge of disappearing. He used bronze as his primary medium and employed a unique technique of repeatedly scraping away and reapplying the material to create a textured surface. Giacometti’s art profoundly influenced the Surrealist and Existentialist movements and continues to be celebrated for its emotional depth and introspectiveness.

Career highlights

Alberto Giacometti
Image Credit: Modern Art Gallery

Mature StyleCand Recognition: Success and Fame

Giacometti’s first post-war solo exhibition in 1947 at the Pierre Matisse Gallery in New York was a triumph. His surreal, elongated sculptures resonated with a public grappling with existential questions of humanity and purpose. Commissions and sales followed, providing Giacometti with financial freedom and fame.

The Existential Sculptures

Giacometti’s mature works featured solitary, skeletal figures in a style influenced by Existentialism. Pieces like ‘The Palace at 4 am’ and ‘The Cage’ featured isolated, emaciated characters in barren settings. The elongated forms and haggard, worn details evoked angst and empathy.

Giacometti obsessed over capturing what he called the “true likeness” of his subjects through endless reworking and revision. His painstaking process and fixation with expressively conveying human experience made him a pioneer of existential representation in sculpture. Giacometti found meaning and purpose through his masterful, moving works, gaining renown as an innovative 20th-century artist who intimately captured the human condition.

What three Art Movements Influenced Giacometti?

Three art movements that influenced Giacometti are Cubism, Surrealism, and Existentialism. 

Cubism influenced Giacometti’s approach to representing the human figure with its fragmented and abstract forms. He was fascinated by how Cubist artists like Picasso and Braque broke down objects into geometric shapes and multiple viewpoints, and he incorporated these elements into his sculptures.

Surrealism, with its emphasis on the subconscious and dreams, also significantly impacted Giacometti’s work. He was drawn to exploring the inner world of the mind and the irrational aspects of human existence. This influence can be seen in his elongated and distorted figures, which evoke a sense of psychological tension and ambiguity.

Existentialism, a philosophical movement emphasizing individual freedom and responsibility, played a crucial role in shaping Giacometti’s artistic vision. He was deeply interested in questions of human existence and the search for meaning in an uncertain world. His sculptures capture the essence of the human condition, conveying a sense of isolation, vulnerability, and existential angst.

Alberto Giacometti List of Work

Alberto Giacometti
Image Credit: Kunsthaus Zorich

Notable Artworks

Alberto Giacometti is known for his distinctive style and exploration of the human form. His works are characterized by their elongated and thin figures, which convey a sense of Existentialism and isolation. 

“Walking Man”

This sculpture depicts a solitary figure in motion, with its thin and elongated form capturing a sense of fragility and vulnerability. The figure’s movement is frozen in time, creating a haunting and introspective image.

“The Chariot”

This sculpture is a representation of a horse and rider, with the horse reduced to a skeletal form and the rider hunched over and elongated. The piece is often interpreted as a reflection on the horrors of war and the impact it has on individuals.

“Woman with Her Throat Cut”

This sculpture features a thin and elongated female figure lying on the ground, her throat seemingly slit. The piece creates a sense of violence and despair, reflecting the artist’s exploration of the human condition.

These artworks, along with many others by Giacometti, continue to captivate audiences and inspire contemplation. They showcase his unique approach to sculpture and his ability to convey emotions through his art. Giacometti’s works are considered timeless and continue to be celebrated for their depth and thought-provoking nature.

Some others include:


Spoon Woman


Standing Woman


The Chariot


Femme Debout


L’Homme au doigt

How much is a Giacometti Worth?  

One of the most valuable Giacometti sculptures ever sold is his iconic “L’Homme au Doigt” (Pointing Man), which fetched a staggering $141.3 million at an auction in 2015. This sale set a new record for the most expensive sculpture ever sold at that time.

It’s important to understand that not all Giacometti sculptures reach such astronomical prices. The value of his works can vary significantly depending on factors such as size, material, rarity, and artistic significance. Some more miniature sculptures or less well-known pieces may be available for a more affordable price, while his more famous and more significant works command higher sums.

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