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Alberto Giacometti

Bronze sculptor 1901 - 1966

Alberto Giacometti was born in Borgonovo, Switzerland, on October 10 1901. The first of four children born to Giovanni Giacometti, a post-Impressionist painter, and Annetta Giacometti-Stampa, whose family was among the area's most prominent land owners, Alberto began his artistic life sending pencil and crayon drawings to his godfather Amiet; many of which are still around today. In the years that followed, he experimented with oils and still-lifes, often using his siblings as models.

Following this, he enrolled at the Ecole des Arts Industriels in Geneva and studied painting, sculpture and drawing under the tutelage of Pointillist painter David Estoppey and sculptor Maurice Sarkissoff. After travelling to Italy with his father in 1920 and viewing a variety of paintings from some of the biggest names in painting at the time, he moved to Paris and enrolled in several art classes before being attracted to cubism and primitive art. This change in style prompted him to exhibit his first bronze sculpture, the 'Spoon Woman', at the Paris Salon des Tuileries in 1926.

By the 1930s, Giacometti had been warmly welcomed into Surrealist circles and became close to some of the leading sculptors of the time, including Max Ernst, Joan Miro and Andre Masson. He also published work in 'Documents', a periodical written by Georges Bataille, who was putting forward a version of Surrealism that opposed that of the movement's founder, Andre Breton. Many critics now believe that Bataille's ideas may have been important in inspiring some of Giacometti's Surrealist pieces, including the 'Suspended Ball' of 1930.

In June 1940, Giacometti and his brother Diego fled Paris by bicycle, just missing an encounter with the invading German Wehrmacht; a day later they witnessed the city's bombardment from afar. He remained in France during this time and forged relationships with Simone de Beauvoir and Jean-Paul Sartre, who would later influence his figurative work.

As his style continued to mature into the 1950s and 60s, Giacometti's bronze figures grew larger and even more complex, ranging from Woman of Venice II at nearly four feet tall to Tall Woman II, standing at close to nearly nine feet tall! By the 1960s, Giacometti was internationally famous, but his health was deteriorating, having been plagued by circulatory and heart problems. Despite this, he continued to work and in his final weeks, he was working on a bronze bust and painting of Elie Lotar, a French photographer and close friend. Sadly, on the evening of January 11, 1966, he died of complications of pericarditis.