Galerie Beyeler, Basel (acquired from the above in 1990)
Private Collection, France (acquired from the above. Sold: Sotheby's, London, 5th February 2002, lot 20)
Purchased at the above sale by the present owner
Neumarkt in der Oberpfalz, Museum Lothar Fischer, Alberto Giacometti, Sammlung Klewan, 2007-08, illustrated in the catalogue
Wolfsburg, Kunstmuseum & Salzburg, Museum der Moderne Mönchsberg, Alberto Giacometti: Der Ursprung des Raumes, 2010-11, illustrated in the catalogue
Hamburg, Kunsthalle, Giacometti. Die Spielfelder, 2013, no. 48, illustrated in the catalogue
Madrid, Fundación Mapfre, Giacometti. Terrenos de juego, 2013, no. 118, illustrated in the catalogue (as dating from 1949)
Vienna, Leopold Museum, Alberto Giacometti: Pionier der Moderne, 2014-15, illustrated in the catalogue (as dating from 1947-49)
The year 1947 was of crucial importance for Giacometti and many of his most celebrated creations such as L’Homme qui marche and L’Homme au doigt date from that period. His experimental masterpiece Le Chariot, although not executed until 1950, was first envisaged in 1947. After years of self-imposed exile in his native Switzerland, in 1945 the artist returned to his spiritual home, Paris. He had spent the preceding years working on an ever-smaller scale as he attempted to render the perspective of distance in sculptural form; it was a period of intense frustration and of destruction as well as creation. Back in the city he had so loved before the war, his spirits were buoyed by the discovery of his old studio, preserved by his brother Diego. His energy was further rejuvenated by the arrival of Annette Arms in the summer of 1946. This new environment and personal contentment heralded a striking change in direction, with his sculptures taking on the more elongated physiognomy that would become the artist’s hallmark. As David Sylvester observed, this was the moment that ‘the style of his mature work was crystallised’ (D. Sylvester, Looking at Giacometti, London, 1994, p. 149).
Throughout the previous decade Giacometti had made regular studies of Egyptian statuary, both in person at the Louvre and working from reproductions, and these became an important source of inspiration for his frontal male and female figures. His belief that attempts to mimic reality through techniques like contrapposto preserved an untruth led him to the deliberately hieratic forms of ancient sculpture which preserved a truthfulness. David Sylvester wrote that Giacometti ‘chose to work as if under the kind of restrictions imposed upon artists by civilisations such as Egypt and Byzantium – not only the demand for adherence to stereotypes, but the insistence that the pose be formal, compact, impassive, frontal. It was not that he was aiming to create an impersonal kind of art: the nervous, agitated surfaces of the sculptures and the paintings are imprints of the gestures that made them […]. The point of the rigid stereotypes could only have been that here again he felt most free to act when operating, ritualistically, within a firm, constant, repetitious framework’ (ibid., p. 121).
This preoccupation with the art of the past and with a quasi-formulaic methodology was essential to Giacometti’s conception of his own work which was pursued with a relentless intensity and a complete focus on the process of creation. The figures that reoccur in his œuvre were often worked and re-worked, with Giacometti sometimes stripping a model back to the armature in order to build it up again. It was through these repetitions that he was able to perceive the elusive reality and to achieve a timelessness that spoke to the continuity of the human condition.
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