Sidney Janis Gallery, New York
J. David Settles, New York
Private Collection, Europe
Acquired from the above by the late owner in January 1989
New York, Sidney Janis Gallery, 20th Century European Masters, 1985-86, no. 24
Madrid, Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, Alberto Giacometti, dibujo-escultura-pintura, 1990-91, no. 243, illustrated in the catalogue (titled L'Homme qui marche III and as dating from 1960)
Berlin, Kupferstichkabinett, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin - Preussischer Kulturbesitz, Linie, Licht und Schatten. Meisterzeichnungen und Skulpturen der Sammlung Jan und Marie-Anne Krugier-Poniatowski, 1999, no. 185, illustrated in colour in the catalogue
Madrid, Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza, Miradas sin Tiempo. Dibujos, Pinturas y Esculturas de la Coleccion Jan y Marie-Anne Krugier-Poniatowski, 2000, no. 217, illustrated in colour in the catalogue
Paris, Musée Jacquemart-André, La Passion du Dessin. Collection Jan et Marie-Anne Krugier-Poniatowski, 2002, no. 177, illustrated in colour in the catalogue
Vienna, Albertina, Goya bis Picasso. Meisterwerke der Sammlung Jan Krugier und Marie-Anne Krugier-Poniatowski, 2005, no. 165, illustrated in colour in the catalogue
Munich, Hypo-Kulturstiftung, Das Ewige Auge - Von Rembrandt bis Picasso. Meisterwerke aus der Sammlung Jan Krugier und Marie-Anne Krugier-Poniatowski, 2007, no. 218, illustrated in colour in the catalogue
Palma Bucarelli, Giacometti, Rome, 1962, no. 30, illustrated (titled Uomo che cammina)
Yves Bonnefoy, Alberto Giacometti - Biographie d'une œuvre, Paris, 1991, no. 294, illustration of another cast p. 321
In the late 1940s, Giacometti was fascinated by spatial relationships and the concept of movement within a single work. The present sculpture was undeniably conceived in an urban context, with the platform on which the figure is depicted derived from the notion of a city square. Referring to the new perception of people and the space surrounding them, Giacometti recounted that, upon leaving a cinema in 1945, he suddenly felt that ‘people seemed like a completely foreign species, mechanical... mindless machines, like men in the street who come and go... a bit like ants, each one going about his own business, alone ignored by the others. They crossed paths, passed by, without seeing each other, without looking... In the street people astound and interest me more than any sculpture or painting. Every second the people stream together and go apart, they approach each other to get closer to one another. They unceasingly form and reform living compositions in unbelievable complexity’ (A. Giacometti, quoted in Pierre Schneider, 'Ma longue marche par Alberto Giacometti', in L'Express, Paris, 8th June 1961, pp. 48-50).
Between 1947 and 1950 Giacometti made several sculptures centred on the figure of the walking man or a group of men set on a platform suggestive of a city square. Other sculptures from this period, now widely recognised as the pinnacle of his œuvre, include Homme qui marche sous la pluie (fig. 1), and La Place (fig. 3). In all of their various forms, Giacometti’s walking men were the embodiment of the isolation and anxiety symptomatic of post-war Europe. Frozen in time yet determined to move forward, alone yet unable to escape the urban throng, these solitary figures have come to symbolise the great existential dilemma of the twentieth century.
Homme traversant une place par un matin de soleil epitomises Giacometti's mature style, developed during the years immediately following the Second World War and characterised by the tall, slender figures for which he is best known. No longer interested in recreating physical likenesses in his sculptures, the artist began working from memory, seeking to capture his figures beyond the physical reality of the human form. Giacometti elongated the vertical axis while reducing the thickness of his sculptures: the man in the present work is thus composed of thin lines, lending the composition a weightless, almost impalpable quality. The image of a man can be interpreted as a symbolic representation of the artist himself and, in a wider context of the post-war period, as a reflection of the lonely and vulnerable human condition. The man in this composition is rendered as a lean, wiry figure, a feature of Giacometti's work that reached its ultimate form in the life-sized L’homme qui marche of 1960 (fig. 4).
Valerie J. Fletcher compared the present sculpture with the closely related Homme qui marche sous la pluie of 1948 (fig. 1): ‘Giacometti once spoke of Man Walking Quickly in the Rain, 1948 and Man Crossing a Square in the Sun [the present sculpture], 1949, as representing himself [...]. In Man Crossing a Square in the Sun, Giacometti made the pose more dynamic by tilting the torso further forward and lengthening the stride; this pose proved to be definitive, for it recurs in the monumental walking men of 1960’ (V. Fletcher, op. cit., pp. 135-136).
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