Lot 328
  • 328

Alberto Giacometti

Estimate
300,000 - 500,000 USD
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Description

  • Alberto Giacometti
  • Tête d'homme
  • Signed Alberto Giacometti (lower right)
  • Pencil on paper

Provenance

Milton D. Ratner, Fort Lee, New Jersey (acquired by 1975)
Private Collection, New York (and sold: Sotheby's, New York, November 15, 1989, lot 245)
Luhring Augustine Gallery, New York (acquired at the above sale)
Acquired from the above in 1989

Exhibited

Jerusalem, The Israel Museum, Giacometti, Works From The Ratner Collection, 1975, n.n.

Catalogue Note

As the artist himself stated, “The head is what matters. The rest of the body plays the part of antennae making life possible for people and life itself is inside the skull” (quoted in Yves Bonnefoy, Alberto Giacometti: A Biography of His Work, Paris, 1991, p. 377). Emerging from the center of the page, Tête d'homme materializes from a frenetic nest of lines and curves. Giacometti excelled in each of the major media—drawing, painting and sculpture—from early in his career but never subscribed to a hierarchy among these forms of expression. While his portraits in pencil, ink and oil were initially critiqued for being overly classical in composition, Giacometti’s distinctive formal technique extracted much of the same sparse vigor as his sculpture. In the manner of classical masters such as Michelangelo before him, Giacometti’s practice combined drawing, painting and sculpture, centered around his exploration of the human figure (see fig. 1). This is particularly evident in the drawings, which are most revealing of Giacometti’s process and hand.

Despite his mastery of multiple media, Giacometti did opine that “One has to focus uniquely and exclusively on drawing. If one could master drawing, everything else would be possible" (quoted in James Lord, Dessins de Giacometti, Paris, 1971, p. 26). Giacometti drew all his life, at times using the medium as a preparation for his sculptures and at others as a concentrated study of the objects around him. Works such as Tête d'homme exemplify the intensely introspective and exploratory genius of his skill. For Giacometti, technical finesse was the instrument used to capture reality on the page or canvas. As David Sylvester wrote, "Giacometti's work lays naked the despair known to every artist who has tried to copy what he sees. At the same time it is an affirmation that there is a hard core which remains from all that has been seen and that this can be stabilized, this can be saved, this can be rendered indestructible" (David Sylvester, Looking at Giacometti, New York, 1996, p. 36).

Returning to Paris after the conclusion of World War II, a recently married Giacometti returned to work in the city he had known before the war. He produced some of his greatest works in these post-war years including Chariot, but ultimately abandoned sculpture to immerse himself in depicting the individuals in his own life. While major archetypes such as L'Homme au doigt had been completed in just a few hours, these seemingly sparse portraits often required days of attention and extreme effort, in some cases driving Giacometti to near madness (Yves Bonnefoy, ibid., p. 369). As seen in the tactile surface of Tête d'homme, likely depicting the head of Giacometti's brother Diego (see fig. 2), the nearly impenetrable human guise proved to be a much more daunting challenge. As Yves Bonnefoy commented, “During this final period, of almost fifteen years, the ‘heads’ studied were exclusively those of Diego, Annette, Annetta, Caroline and very few other persons, all close friends, which proves that Giacometti had indeed chosen the existence of individuals, the here and now as the chief object of his new and future study; and that he instinctively realized that this object transcended all artistic signs and representations, since it was no less that life itself” (ibid., p. 369).

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