Alberto Giacometti (1901-1966)
Important Drawings from the Collection of Duncan MacGuigan
Alberto Giacometti (1901-1966)

Femme debout (recto); Groupe de personnages (verso)

Alberto Giacometti (1901-1966)
Femme debout (recto); Groupe de personnages (verso)
signed and dedicated 'Pour Max Ernst trés affectueusement Alberto Giacometti' (lower right)
graphite and charcoal on paper
24 x 18¼ in. (62.7 x 48 cm.)
Drawn circa 1946.
Max Ernst, Paris (gift of the artist)
Dorothea Tanning, Paris
Acquired from the above by the present owner
J. Lord, Alberto Giacometti Drawings, Lausanne and Paris, 1971, p. 131, no. 56 (illustrated).
XIX & XX Century Master Drawings & Watercolors, exh. cat., Aquavella Galleries, New York, 1985, no. 22 (illustrated).
A. Schneider, Alberto Giacometti Sculpture, Paintings, Drawings, Munich, 1994, no. 73 (illustrated).
P. Elliot, The Burlington Magazine, "The Drawing of Alberto Giacometti," May 2001, p. 316, no. 87 (illustrated).
Edinburgh, Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art, Alberto Giacometti, June-September 1966, no. 119.
Saint-Paul-de-Vence, Fondation Maeght, Alberto Giacometti, July-September 1978, no. 221.
Berlin, Nationalgalerie and Stuttgart, Staatsgalerie, Alberto Giacometti--Skulpturen-Gemälde--Zeichnungen--Grahik, October 1987-January 1988, p. 231, no. 116.
Washington, D.C., The Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden and San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, Giacometti 1901-1966, September 1988-February 1989, p. 162, no. 56 (illustrated).
Paris, Musée d'Art Moderne, Alberto Giacometti: sculptures, peintures, dessins,, November 1991-March 1992, p. 172, no. 80 (illustrated in color).
New York, Acquavella Galleries, Inc., Alberto Giacometti, A Loan Exhibition, October-December 1994, p. 59, no. 29 (illustrated in color).
Vienna, Kunsthalle; Edinburgh, Scottish Gallery of Modern Art; and London, Royal Academy of Arts, Alberto Giacometti: 1901-1966, February 1996-January 1997, p. 163, no. 112 (illustrated).
Hiroshima, Prefectural Art Museum; Ghizuoka Prefectural Museum of Art and Ashikaga Museum of Art, Alberto Giacometti, February-July 1997, p. 75, no. 25 (illustrated in color).
Zürich, Kunsthaus; Paris, Centre Georges Pompidou; and New York, The Museum of Modern Art, Alberto Giacometti: Le Dessin á la l'oeuvre, May 2001-January 2002, p. 152, no. 94 (illustrated).
Sale room notice
Please note that this work will be included in the forthcoming catalogue raisonné being prepared by the Association Alberto and Annette Giacometti and Mary Lisa Palmer.

Please also note that the work was drawn circa 1946 and the dimensions are 62.7 x 48 cm.

Lot Essay

Prior to its inclusion in the 2001 Giacometti retrospective at the Museum of Modern Art, New York, this important and widely exhibited drawing was presumed to have been executed in 1950. This was the year in which Max Ernst, in the company of Dorothea Tanning, made his first post-war trip back to France and visited fellow artists he had not seen in almost a decade, including Giacometti. It was probably on this occasion that Giacometti signed and dedicated this drawing and presented it to Ernst. The drawing actually appears to have been done at an earlier date. The curators of the MoMA exhibition noted in their catalogue that 'contrary to descriptions in previous literature, the drawing is not dated' and stated that "stylistically it belongs with the drawings from 1946-1947" (op. cit., p. 272).

This earlier dating places Femme debout squarely in the critical period of Giacometti's career following the end of the Second World War --a time when he was creating his most celebrated and iconic works, many of which were first seen in a landmark exhibition at the Pierre Matisse Gallery, New York, in January 1948. When the sculptor returned to Paris from Switzerland in 1945, his entire wartime production had consisted of tiny heads and figures that fit into six small matchboxes he carried in his pockets. In a letter to Pierre Matisse, written in 1947 and published in the New York exhibition catalogue the following year, Giacometti observed that "a large figure seemed to me false and a small one equally unbearable, and then often they became so tiny that with one touch of my knife they disappeared into dust. But head and figures seemed to me to have a bit of truth only when small. All this changed a little in 1945 through drawing. This led me to want to make larger figures, but then to my surprise, they achieved a likeness only when tall and slender."

By 1946 Giacometti had begun to draw elongated figures, in a rough match-stick style at first and then in a more compact but still wraithlike manner, as seen in Femme debout. He drew, rubbed and erased, and slowly built up a translucent skein of pencil lines that evoked the figure as he saw it, situated in the space before him, narrow in relation to his field of vision, and without mass or weight. Writing about the present drawing and a related work, Christian Klemm observed that "the frontal female figures rise from the ground like visions and are fixed to paper with almost convulsive intensity" (in exh. cat., op. cit., The Museum of Modern Art, New York, 2001, p. 150). The vast abyss of the space that surrounds the female figure in Femme debout, defined only by a horizon line that Giacometti drew with a single quick stroke of the pencil, presses inward on the figure, acting as if to force her arms to her side and squeeze the body into a narrow, towering silhouette. In The Search for the Absolute, his essay about Giacometti in the Pierre Matisse catalogue, Jean-Paul Sartre wrote, "this woman moves within the indivisibility of an idea or of a sentiment, she has no parts, she appears totally and at once. It is to give sensible expression to this pure presence, that Giacometti resorts to elongation."

It was essentially from the conception and realization of these extraordinary drawings that Giacometti's large standing figure sculptures took their form and came into being. Klemm has written that "with these weightless elongated figures, Giacometti extended an age-old tradition of imagining man and woman as symbolic representations of the elemental. The work limited to the core of human existence is symptomatic of a postwar era that was seeking out grounds for a new start, however minimal these might be. The lofty verticality of Giacometti's figures, combined with their exquisite fragility, creates a tension with the base materiality of their composition that works to reflect the human condition caught between dignity, vulnerability and ultimate fallibility" (op. cit.).

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