Throughout the final years of his life Alberto continued to use his favored models, his brother Diego and his wife Annette, though two others joined his retinue: the young, irksome, and utterly entrancing Caroline (a local prostitute who captivated the artist), and the Hungarian-born photographer Eli Lotar who had appeared periodically throughout Alberto’s life but whose presence crystallized in the final years. Some of Alberto’s greatest paintings would capture Caroline’s visage but in his sculpted works it was Lotar who commanded the artist’s attention. Lotar and Caroline would frequent Alberto’s studio, modeling or running errands. At night they would exist in the twilight world of Montparnasse, frequenting Chez Adrien, eating and drinking into the early hours of the morning.
As a photographer, Lotar captured the states of Giacometti’s progress on his own likenesses. Giacometti’s studio and work had been photographed before, but the opportunity for a sitter who modeled almost each and ever day for well over a year to document this space was unique. One can see the shape of the face, neck and chest change frame by fame as images of Lotar, Caroline and Diego appear in the same strip of negatives, with photographs of the date included to document the passage of time (see fig. 2). "A number of photographs of Giacometti's studio, taken late in 1965, show this work in progress. They reveal that Giacometti would pour water over the clay, partly no doubt to make it more malleable, but also to soften the finger marks of his modelling and give the work a blurred, out-of-focus appearance. Towards the end of 1965 Lotar himself took photographs of the work as it progressed. Giacometti, who had been unwell for some time, worked on the bust during his last days in Paris in December 1965, before parting for the hospital in Chur, Switzerland, where he hoped to be treated" (Alberto Giacometti 1901-1966, op. cit., p. 192).
Lotar’s visage was well suited to Alberto’s preferences. With a bald head, regular features and wrinkles etched between his brows, Lotar lent himself to the heavy, malleable clay which Giacometti preferred for his table-top works (see fig. 3), while for full length figures he used the more instantaneous plaster. Giacometti created three busts of Lotar starting around 1964. “The first shows the model’s head and torso, with a very approximate indication of arms, whereas the second shows the head only and a suggestion of shoulders. The two busts are similar in appearance and feeling…. The third, last bust of Lotar stands in a realm apart. The model is shown in somewhat the same position as in the first portrait, the indication of arms, even of hands, however, more fully developed, also the buttocks and upper legs, upon which the hands rest. All similarity ends there. The feeling is utterly different. This is a final affirmation. Its finality emanates solely from itself, not from our awareness that this work was the artist’s last. It is a terminal statement, and as such reduces the contrivance of words to ineffectual fumbling” (ibid., pp. 493-94).
Some time after Alberto’s death, Diego had a bronze cast of Buste d'homme assis (Lotar III) placed on Alberto’s grave alongside a small bird that Diego had sculpted (see fig. 4). As the last sculpture of Alberto Giacometti, all bronzes of Buste d'homme assis (Lotar III) were cast posthumously. The original clay, the plaster and the first bronze cast of this work are held in the collection of the Fondation Giacometti while further casts are found in the Musée Granet, Aix-en-Provence, the Museo Ciäsa Granda, Stampa, Switzerland and the Fondation Beyeler, Basel. The present example has remained in the same private collection since 1982.
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