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    Sale 1900

    Impressionist and Modern Art Evening Sale

    6 November 2007, New York, Rockefeller Plaza

  • Lot 4

    Alberto Giacometti (1901-1966)

    Atelier I

    Price Realised  


    Alberto Giacometti (1901-1966)
    Atelier I
    signed and dated 'Alberto Giacometti 1950' (lower right)
    oil on canvas
    25¾ x 18 1/8 in. (65.2 x 46 cm.)
    Painted in 1950

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    The Comité Giacometti has confirmed the authenticity of this work. It will be included in the catalogue raisonné being prepared by the Foundation Alberto and Annette Giacometti.

    "The studio was the centre of Giacometti's world," Michael Peppiatt has observed, and the artist's delight in finding the dilapidated building lovingly preserved upon his return to Paris in 1945, his modeling knife still caked in plaster, was undiminished over the last, increasingly anxious years of his life (in Alberto Giacometti in Postwar Paris, exh. cat., New Haven, 2001, p. 3). "The more he worked there, the more the unprepossessing little room became the archive of his struggle with appearance and reality, hope and failure. Paintings and sculptures of every phase of his career stood round the chaotic space (like 'guardians of the dead', as the writer Jean Genet would later say)," a cache of "finished images and the ghosts of rejected ones" that "seemed to embody a lifetime of work, right down to the sketches that had once been scratched into the wall, and the odd jottings, memos and telephone numbers that surrounded them" (ibid.).

    Among his many portraits of his brother Diego, his wife Annette and a carefully circumscribed number of other sitters, together with still-lifes and landscapes, Giacometti occasionally painted studio interiors. His atelier had long been a sanctuary from repeated crises of self-doubt, its obsessive familiarity and controlled chaos an indispensable antidote to the frustrations of his personal and artistic life. The studio paintings are, in essence, interior landscapes, a picture of the artist's mind as reflected on the walls that surrounded him. Here, amid the austere backdrop of the studio space, sits a sculpture of Diego, in whose craggy, inscrutable features is compressed the intensity of frightening emotion. "In the portraits of Diego," Yves Bonnefoy has observed, one "senses considerable disquiet, as well as great energy, in the scrutiny of the sitter's presence, as though Alberto found Diego a source of anxiety In the presence of someone who is, as it were, his double, Giacometti more than ever is witness to the mystery of existence" (in Alberto Giacometti: A Biography of his Work, Paris, 1991, pp. 426 and 432). His painted portrait bust, here encased in a miasmic cloud of gray, stares unflinchingly out from a corner of the atelier, the accoutrements of the workshop rapidly and schematically drawn into the background.

    Color had begun to drain from Giacometti's work well before 1958, and his turn toward monochromatic grays, whites and blacks accorded well with his proclivity for mining the abstract essences of his subjects. Defending his gray paintings, Giacometti asked, "When I see everything in gray and in this gray all the colors I experience and thus want to reproduce, then why should I use any other color?... I never intended to paint only with gray and white or with any one single color at all But as I was working I had to eliminate one color after another, no--one color after the other dropped out, and what remained? Gray! Gray! Gray! My experience is that the color that I feel, that I see, that I want to reproduce--you understand?--means life itself to me" (quoted in Reinhold Hohl, ed., Giacometti: A Biography in Pictures, Stuttgart, 1998, pp. 158-59).

    (fig. 1) Giacometti working in his atelier, circa 1960. Photograph by Ernst Scheidegger. BARCODE 25247800


    Galerie Maeght, Paris.
    Acquired from the above by the present owner, circa 1960.

    Pre-Lot Text