- Diego Giacometti
Console, "Hommage à Böcklin"
- Stamped DIEGO and with the artist's monogram
Private Collection (acquired by 1980)
Thence by descent
Daniel Marchesseau, Diego Giacometti, New York, 1986, illustration of another example p. 92
In 1929 Man Ray introduced Alberto Giacometti to the French interior designer Jean-Michel Frank. Frank's interest in Surrealism and in incorporating surrealist elements into interiors led to a number of collaborative commisions with both Alberto and Diego for lamps and numerous other accessories. After Alberto's death in 1966, Diego continued on in developing his own expression of design in a wide variety of furnishings and objects. The success of Diego Giacometti's designs culminated in the extraordinary work he did for the Musée Picasso at L'Hôtel Salé in Paris.
The title of the present work refers to the mid-19th Century Swiss artist, Arnöld Böcklin, whose mythological subjects were often centered on a theme of death. His strange and fantastical paintings, steeped in the tenents of Romanticism, were an important influence upon the Symbolists in France and the Pre-Raphaelites in England who followed.
While Böcklin fell out of favor in the early part of the twentieth century, Marcel Duchamp surprisingly proclaimed him to be a major influence when asked for the name of his favorite artist. Whether this tribute was meant to be ironic is not known, but Böcklin's use of macabre and dreamlike imagery along with Duchamp's previous stamp of approval caused the Surrealists (especially Max Ernst) to reclaim him as a source of inspiration.
In the present work, the tranquil line of cypress trees at its heart calls to mind Böcklin's most famous work: The Isle of the Dead.(see fig. 1) This haunting painting, the first version of which was painted in 1880, shows a shining figure in white, approaching the rocky and cypress-filled shoreline of a mythical Greek Isle. While the scene is enigmatic, the lonely figure, possibly with a coffin in front of him, seems to be steered by Charon the boatman in a small vessel, towards his inexorable fate.
Fig 1: Arnold Böcklin, Isle of the Dead, 1880, oil on canvas, Kunstmuseum Basel