Giacometti: From Life – A Must-See For Art Lovers

Celebrated as a painter, sculptor and scribbler, Alberto Giacometti is widely regarded as one of the most important and distinctive artists of the 20th century – Don’t believe me? Well, see for yourself. Giacometti: From Life is running at the National Gallery until September 4, and is the first exhibition of his work to be held in Ireland for 30 years. Offering a rare retrospective spanning decades and media, the showcase reasserts Giacometti’s place alongside the likes of Matisse, Picasso and Degas.

Taking place in the gallery’s Beit Wing (Rooms 6–10), Giacometti: From Life hosts more than 50 works by the legendary artist, including bronze and plaster sculptures, paintings, sketches, and prints. We follow the development of Giacometti: his beginnings in rural Switzerland to the late work he made in his Paris studio. The exhibition highlights the artist’s close working relationships with family members and friends who modelled for him. Among them, his brother Diego, wife Annette, and writers and artists such as Jean-Paul Sartre, Simone de Beauvoir, Isaku Yanaihara and Eli Lotar.

Alberto Giacometti (1901-1966) grew up in Stampa, in Val Bregaglia, an alpine region of Switzerland. The son of a painter, Giacometti began making portraits at an early age. These were of his family – his father Giovanni, his mother Annetta, as well as siblings Diego, Ottilia and Bruno. The vibrant colouring and visible brushstrokes of these early works, many of which are a part of the exhibition, show the influence of his father’s Neo-Impressionist style.

In 1922 Giacometti went to study in Paris and remained there for most of his life. Artistically Giacometti was independent and highly disciplined. He flirted with the avant-garde movement in the 1920s, quickly rising to fame for his uncanny sculptures, but soon turned his back on the Surrealists (and on the forward motion of European modernism), choosing to go back to model – the age-old subject of the human body.

As a result, Giacometti lost almost his entire circle of friends – yet he was not alone. Relationships with family and friends were intrinsic to his life and work. He forged close personal ties, initially, with his family and, in later years, his wife Annette became integral to his art. She and Giacometti married in 1949. Annette dedicated her life to Giacometti and his work. She shared his hard living conditions, assisted him with day-to- day arrangements, photographed his art, and modelled for him. Infact, Annette takes up most of the exhibition’s wall space.

Towards the end of his life Giacometti received international recognition, exhibitions, and awards. Even so, he had little inclination to travel far; Stampa and Paris anchored him, grounded him and shaped him as an artist. However, although Giacometti never visited Ireland, he did know Samuel Beckett. Curator of European Art at the National Gallery of Ireland, Janet McLean told Gloss Magazine. “They spent time together in Paris, often going for long evening walks. On Beckett’s request Giacometti made a tree for the set of a production of Waiting for Godot at the Odéon in 1961.”

Giacometti: From Life (9 April – 4 September 2022) is co-organised by the National Gallery of Ireland and the Fondation Giacometti.

Ticket prices range from €12 – €18 (€5 every Tuesday from 9.15am to 1pm and Thursday from 5pm to 7.15pm.) Discounts for mid-week tickets and for those booked online, as well as for the over 65s, students, and individuals who are currently unwaged. It should take approximately 25mins to complete the exhibition.

Curators: Sean Rainbird & Janet McLean (National Gallery of Ireland); Catherine Grenier & Thierry Pautot (Fondation Giacometti)

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