"One has to focus uniquely and exclusively on drawing", Alberto Giacometti once said, "If one could master drawing, everything else would be possible" (A. Giacometti, quoted in J. Lord, Dessins de Giacometti, Paris, 1971, p. 26). Giacometti drew all his life, at times using the medium as a preparation for his sculptures and at others as a concentrated study of the objects around him.
Tête de Diego, a finished, independent work rather than a study, is one of those signed drawings that Giacometti would sell alongside his statues and paintings. Rendered with red and blue ballpoint pens, the drawing illustrates a signature technique of the artist's late period. At the centre of the page, a head emerges from intricate, frenetic crossroads of lines and curves. The sitter is Diego, Giacometti's brother, who served as a model throughout the artist's entire career.
Still visible among the tangled network of lines are some horizontal and vertical ones. They form a kind of grid, perhaps documenting the artist's first approach to the paper in his effort to situate the sitter in space. This concern with capturing presence in space is central to Giacometti's entire oeuvre: already in 1948, the artist's friend, the philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre, noticed the striking way in which Giacometti's subjects were always portrayed as if appearing at distance (J.P. Sartre, 'The Search for the Absolute', in: C. Harrison, P. Wood, (eds.), Art in Theory 1900-1990, Oxford, 1992, pp. 599-604).
Through his art, Giacometti aimed at possessing the very act of seeing; he strived to depict people as visual phenomena. 'Heads, figures are nothing but the perpetual movement of their inside, of their outside, they re-make themselves with no pause, they are not a real consistence', Giacommetti wrote. 'They are a moving mass' (A. Giacometti, quoted in A. de la Beaumelle, (ed.), Alberto Giacometti: Le dessin l'oeuvre, exh. cat., Paris, 2001, p. 190). Tête de Diego is the materialisation of Giacometti's experience of perception. His lines - fast moving, juxtaposed, curved in tense evolutions - capture that ineffable, ever changing essence of the presence of a human being.