Alberto Giacometti (1901-1966)
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Alberto Giacometti (1901-1966)

Nu debout II

Details
Alberto Giacometti (1901-1966)
Nu debout II
signed, dated and numbered 'Alberto Giacometti 1953 5/6' (on the right side of the base); inscribed with the foundry mark 'Susse Fondeur' (on the back of the base)
painted bronze
Height: 19 1/4 in. (48.9 cm.)
Conceived in 1953 and cast in the artist's lifetime
Provenance
Galerie Beyeler, Basel, by 1957.
Eric Estorick, London.
Salome Estorick, London, a gift from the above.
Marguerite Maeght, Paris.
Adrien Maeght, Paris, a bequest from the above in 1977.
Pace Gallery, New York (no. 8985), by whom acquired from the above in October 1980.
Thomas Gibson Fine Art Ltd., London, by whom acquired from the above in 1981.
Private collection, Switzerland, by whom acquired from the above in 1983.
Acquired from the above by the present owner.
Literature
A. Liebermann, The artist and his studio, London, 1960, p. 130 (another cast illustrated pl. E).
P. Bucarelli, Giacometti, Rome, 1962, no. 53 (another cast illustrated; titled 'Woman (grande chevelure)').
A. Schneider, Alberto Giacometti, Sculpture, Paintings, Drawings, New York, 1994, no. 91 (another cast illustrated).
Special notice

These lots have been imported from outside the EU for sale using a Temporary Import regime. Import VAT is payable (at 5%) on the Hammer price. VAT is also payable (at 20%) on the buyer’s Premium on a VAT inclusive basis. When a buyer of such a lot has registered an EU address but wishes to export the lot or complete the import into another EU country, he must advise Christie's immediately after the auction.
Sale room notice
Please note that this lot will be examined by the Giacometti Foundation at their next committee meeting in Paris between 9 and 11 July.

Brought to you by

Antoine Lebouteiller
Antoine Lebouteiller

Lot Essay

Nu debout II is a rare, hand-painted bronze figure by Alberto Giacometti, conceived in 1953 and and cast shortly thereafter. Later owned by the sociologist and prominent collector Eric Estorick, whose legacy established the London museum that bears his name, this sculpture dates from a crucial watershed moment in Giacometti's career. Nu debout II was created when the artist began to distance himself from the stylised, elongated, almost spectral figures that had become his hallmark over the previous years since the end of the Second World War. Now, he sought to 'carve more of the fat off space' (Giacometti, quoted in H. & M. Matter, Alberto Giacometti, New York, 1987, p. 211). This is visible in Nu debout II in the new sense of the curvaceous that Giacometti has introduced to the figure, with its hourglass form and protruding breasts. The surface of the sculpture bears the traces of the artist's tireless movements as he sought to eke out a true appearance in his material, building up and paring away the original sculpture until it reached a final state that was cast.

In Nu debout II, there is a heightened sense of observation that ties in with Giacometti's recent return to working from life. Indeed, it was in 1953, the year that Nu debout II was conceived, that Giacometti ceased to create his figures from memory or the imagination, and instead began to focus on the actual experience of looking, anchoring himself to visual reality. When Nu debout II is compared to the more stylised figures of women from the previous years, the dramatic nature of this sea-change can be seen: here, there is a vivid sense of individuality to the sculpture, rather than the more generalised, universal aspect of his previous works. This is accentuated by the profile of the hair, which descends in growing waves, as well as the body itself.

David Sylvester has explained that Giacometti returned to working from the model in 1953, creating a sculpture the following year that was entitled Annette d'après nature (see D. Sylvester, Looking at Giacometti, London, 1994, p. 153). The title makes explicit the idea that Giacometti's wife Annette was the model, as would appear to be the case in Nu debout II as well, especially considering the similarities between the two works. Sylvester went on to explain that, while few of the sculptures of female figures that Giacometti created during the rest of his career would attain quite the same rounded quality, the same generosity of form, they nonetheless ceased to have the near-ethereal verticality of his earlier works, even in his Femmes de Venise created for the Venice Biennale in 1956.

In the post-war years, Giacometti often had recourse to two models in particular: his brother Diego and his wife Annette, whom he had married in 1949 having met her during his exile in his native Switzerland during the Second World War. She was to become his most important and consistent muse, appearing in a great number of his paintings and drawings. Ironically, she featured as an inspiration in some of his female figures, yet was seldom the subject of portrait busts until later in his life. Perhaps this was a reflection of some aspect of their relationship. Certainly, Giacometti's friends and acquaintances recalled that Annette had a piercing and direct gaze that appeared perfectly in tune with Giacometti’s depictions of people and his interest in le regard. Perhaps her youth - she was thirty years old in 1953 as opposed to Giacometti, who was over fifty - prompted the interest in her body that is so palpable in Nu debout II. Indeed, this may chime with Giacometti's own comments on the sense of scale that he captured in his figures:

'If I look at a woman on the opposite pavement and I see her very small, I marvel at that little figure walking in space, and then, seeing her still smaller, my field of vision becomes larger. I see a vast space above and around, which is almost limitless... And if the person comes nearer, I stop looking at her, but she almost stops existing, too. Or else one's emotions become involved: I want to touch her, don't I? Looking has lost all interest' (Giacometti, quoted in ibid., p. 213).

Here, Giacometti distils his interest in his own gaze, in the way he sees the world, in the power of touch and in particular the tantalising power of a touch denied. Looking at Nu debout II in this context, it becomes clear that Giacometti has explored the notions of psychological scale that underpinned so many of his works, which also reflected his ideas of physical distance. Giacometti managed to convey a sense of the physical and emotional distance between himself and his subject, especially in his more observed figures and heads from the 1950s onwards. Now that he was working from life, he was more aware of the difference that distance could make in the perception of his subjects. A figure across a room could appear only inches tall, whereas someone too close would not fit entirely in his field of vision. It was this practical consideration that informed the size of many of his sculptures, including Nu debout II, which stands almost two feet tall, giving a vivid sense of the space between the artist and his model.

Nu debout II is a rare polychrome sculpture by Giacometti. The artist had experimented with colour in his sculptures as early as his student days, as Sylvester explained:

'Giacometti had first coloured some of his pieces while in Bourdelle's class, where he became impatient with monochrome sculpture, and had gone on to put a wash of colour over certain plasters of 1925-30. From the mid-1940s on, the plasters in the studio were often decorated with free linear drawing in black and rust, some of it indicating features, especially eyes, most of it free-wheeling. The purpose of this calligraphy was presumably to break up the whiteness of the plaster. But about 1950 he began to paint some of the bronze casts completely, chiefly at that time and then when he painted them on site at the Venice Biennale in 1962 and again for the opening of the Fondation Maeght at St Paul de Vence in 1964. He certainly believed that in principle his sculpture ought to be coloured' (ibid., pp. 152-53).

In fact, Sylvester linked Giacometti's interest in adding colour to his sculptures to the interest that was burgeoning in working from life, as was the case in 1953 when Nu debout II was conceived. Certainly, the polychrome adds a visceral sense of presence to the sculpture in this case. He has eschewed naturalistic representation, instead tapping into a palette that accentuates various features within the composition. In a sense, he has created a sculpture that approaches, say, the ancient Egyptian figurines made of painted wood and placed in tombs which still have such an arresting presence to this day. Indeed, they were a constant source of reference for Giacometti himself, who often discussed Egyptian art in his interviews.

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