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

Femme debout

Alberto Giacometti (1901-1966)
Femme debout
signed and numbered 'A.Giacometti 7/8' (on the right side of the base); inscribed with foundry mark 'Susse Fondeur Paris' (on the back of the base); and stamped with foundry mark 'SUSSE FONDEUR PARIS CIRE PERDUE' (on the underside)
bronze with green and brown patina
Height: 11 3/8 in. (29 cm.)
Conceived circa 1947 and cast in 1976
Pierre Matisse Gallery, New York.
Private collection, Boston, by whom acquired from the above in May 1978, and thence by descent.
Acquired from the above by the present owner in 2012.
The Alberto Giacometti Database, no. 1997.
Special notice

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Lot Essay

During 1946-1947 Giacometti fully realised his visionary, weightless approach to sculpture. He was creating astonishing heads, figures and parts of the body in elongated, reduced forms, eliminating virtually all volume and mass, ranging from only a few inches in height to nearly life-size. These figures were utterly unprecedented, unless one went back to the most primitive works of ancient man.

Giacometti had made it his challenge and task to reinvent the very idea of sculpture. To approach a single Giacometti figure is a tense and unsettling experience. Space appears to press in on it from all sides; the bronze flesh on this attenuated body seems tormented, even flayed and scarred by the emptiness that threatens to engulf it. Its very existence may appear fragile or ephemeral, and insinuate our innermost anxieties about distance, remoteness and solitude. This nearly weightless body strains against mortality, which may be held at bay, but can never be laid aside.

Rather than fleshing out the form of Femme debout, as Rodin would have done in one of his sensuously expressive hands, Giacometti applied and then relentlessly carved away the drying plaster so that the material appears to have shrunk around and now desperately clings to the wire armature. These works are a far cry from the miniscule figures and heads that Giacometti brought back with him from Geneva when he returned to Paris in September 1945, following the end of the Second World War. He is said to have carried the sum of his surviving wartime production in several matchboxes that easily fit in the pockets of his overcoat. He realised that he had come to a sterile end with these ‘pin people’. Giacometti declared: ‘In 1945 I swore to myself that I didn’t want to let my figures get smaller and smaller, not even by an inch. But now the following happened: I could maintain the height, but they started to get narrow, narrow... tall and thin as a thread’ (quoted in R. Hohl, ed., Giacometti: A Biography in Pictures, Stuttgart, 1998, p. 108).

The accelerating evolution in Giacometti’s work during this period stemmed from a sequence of hallucinatory revelations that the sculptor experienced as he reintegrated himself within the cosmopolitan life of Paris, as the city emerged from the deep nightmarish sleep of the Occupation and slowly returned to life during the years following the Liberation. Pierre Matisse had been virtually alone among dealers in closely following and supporting the progress of Giacometti’s work since his return to Paris, and realised it was high time to give the artist a solo show, his first in almost fifteen years. This would take place in New York at the beginning of 1948, which henceforth became the leading venue in the genesis and expansion of Giacometti’s postwar reputation.

Femme debout was cast in bronze in an edition of eight, one in 1974 and the rest two years later in 1976. Three of these casts are currently in the collections of the Alberto-Giacometti Stiftung, Zurich, the Albertina, Vienna and the Fondation Alberto et Annette Giacometti, Paris. The original plaster is located at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.

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