Diego Giacometti first began using animal imagery in his work around 1935, perhaps an inevitability given his upbringing on the family farm in the rugged, alpine region of Bregaglia in Switzerland. In time the artist combined both the quotidian animal forms of the cats, dogs and horses seen in surrounding villages with the wilder elements of owls, deer and wolves in the mountains, weaving a fantastical and dreamlike world in bronze.
He tirelessly modeled in clay to portray the essence of each animal, later combining the separate elements in bronze to create often humorous and always very engaging tableaux of implied or imagined narrative. The abstracted elements of the artist's work also retain natural elements, for example the joins of crossbars can have a vine-like quality and the structural components of his furniture usually feature a wonderfully organic surface texture.
In an interview with Patricia de Beauvais, the artist explained the origin of the Promenade des amis
motif, seen here in a form of a console table: "It was for a client who organized auctions to benefit animal rights. So I thought of this, La Promenade des amis
: a horse with three little dogs, one of which ‘waters’ the tree, another who sniffs him. I had one client ask me to remove it. It bothered her, but dogs, they are all the same, I told her” (translated from the French, quoted in Christian Boutonnet & Rafael Ortiz, Diego Giacometti
, Paris, 2003, p. 95).
Fig. 1 Diego Giacometti in his studio
Fig. 2 Diego Giacometti, Table aux personnages, circa 1976, bronze, sold: Sotheby's, New York, November 15, 2016 for $3,837,500