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

Buste d'homme (Diego)

Alberto Giacometti (1901-1966)
Buste d'homme (Diego)
signed, numbered, and inscribed with foundry mark 'Alberto Giacometti 0/6 Susse fondeur Paris' (on the back); stamped with foundry mark 'SUSSE FONDEUR PARIS CIRE PERDUE' (on the underside)
bronze with brown and green patina
Height: 15¾ in. (40 cm.)
Conceived in 1959 and cast in 1969
Annette Giacometti, Paris.
Thomas Gibson, Fine Art Ltd., London (acquired from the above).
Julian J. Aberbach, New York (acquired from the above).
Jeffrey H. Loria & Co., Inc., New York (acquired from the above).
Acquired from the above by the present owner, 1987.
The Alberto Giacometti Database, no. 2893.

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Brooke Lampley
Brooke Lampley

Lot Essay

Around 1951, Giacometti began to model a series of heads and busts of his brother Diego that heralded a sea-change in his approach to the subject, always the fundamental human presence, as the head, bust or figure. He had previously created his famously attenuated sculptures from imagination and memory. He now wanted to experience within his hands as he sculpted not a visionary conception of the body, but instead its flesh-and-blood corporeality, as the very person existing in that space only a few feet away, directly in front of him.
Although he was working from a live model, Giacometti did not seek to describe a realistic resemblance of any conventional kind. “For Giacometti it was the essential presence of the human being, as it appears to the artist, that he sought to grasp," Christian Klemm has written, "the ceaseless dialogue between seeing and the seen, eye and hand, in which form continually grows and dissolves” (Alberto Giacometti, exh. cat., The Museum of Modern Art, New York, 2001, p. 222). From eye to hand to the matière in which he worked, Giacometti created simulacra of his sitters that bespeak an almost unbearably intense intimacy, revealing nerves exposed, a psyche laid bare.
By the beginning of the 1960s, after creating models for the four Grandes femmes debout, the two large Hommes qui marche and the Grande tête, which he proposed for the outdoor Chase Manhattan Plaza project in New York–unfortunately never realized–Giacometti had abandoned full-length figures and focused exclusively on heads and busts for the few years that remained to him. Well aware of the challenge that his singular obsession posed, the artist lamented, "I don't know what's wrong with me. I'm only interested in heads now and there's nothing harder than doing a head" (quoted in H. and M. Matter, Alberto Giacometti, New York, 1987, p. 211). He nevertheless asserted that "The great adventure is to see something unknown appear every day in the same face" (quoted in M. Peppiatt, Alberto Giacometti in Postwar Paris, exh. cat., Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts, Norwich, 2001, p. 10).
As Giacometti's devoted and loving brother, as well as his constant studio help-mate, Diego was as close as possible to being a virtual extension of the sculptor himself. By obsessively concentrating on the features of this single individual, Giacometti created a universal man, a contemporary everyman. Diego’s rugged face, in its pared-down and lined features, came to personify the endemic existential anxiety of the immediate post-war period, no less expressively than the famous visionary figures the artist had created during the late 1940s.
There was something essentially masculine and innately heroic in Giacometti’s approach to creating sculpture. His method of continually building up and breaking down the plaster or clay image he held in his hands was an exhilarating but exhausting process, and actually seemed to require in partnership a male subject possessing comparable fortitude. Diego, ever strong, always present, fulfilled this need.
Giacometti and his brother were men of the Swiss Alps–the sculptor's great Diegos manifest this sense of place. This Buste d'homme (Diego) possesses a robustly assertive aspect, a magisterial and commanding presence that stems as much from Diego’s manly features as from the sculptor's rugged modeling in clay of his brother’s attire–a heavy sweater, windbreaker, jacket or full coat–rendered in rock-like textures. It is this mountain-like, monumental quality that relates the present bust to the Grande tête, the male head that Giacometti had been working on concurrently as part of his multi-figure installation for the Chase Bank in Manhattan. Measuring more than three feet tall, Grande tête was the largest head Giacometti ever modeled, and would have been enlarged to an astonishingly gargantuan scale had the commission been carried out–there, only two blocks from Wall Street, would have stood the ultimate great head, Giacometti's apotheosis of man the thinker, man the seer.

Giacometti with his plaster model for Grande tête, 1960. Photograph by Ernst Scheidegger.

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