“The soul that sees beauty may sometimes walk alone”. This saying by famous German poet and philosopher Johann Wolfgang von Goethe is highly relevant to the hero of the following article. Today we are going to talk about Alberto Giacometti and his sculptures that transformed into a symbol of a post-war period and a visualization of the existential philosophy. His figurative works stood out from the total domination of an abstract art during the 50s and made quite an impact not only on the art scene, but also on the philosophical field. Giacometti started as the Surrealist and experimented with the popular at that time Freudian theories and resembled almost toy-like objects, that aroused the notion to interact with them. It was also influenced by primitive art, just as many other modernist works. But after the Second World War, the world had changed drastically, as well as the sculptor himself. Alberto Giacometti focused on the image of a human in the nearly post-apocalyptic Europe that had survived so much horrors and pain. Let’s take a look at some of his most famous works and pick up main motives of his oeuvre.
As we have mentioned, his first works were quite surreal. This particular sculpture was immediately noticed by the Surrealists and made quite an impression even on Salvador Dali. This enigmatic sculpture has an erotic nature to it, the objects are both floating and trapped at the same time.
Later on Giacometti was struggling to find his own language; he didn’t want to be categorized as solely surreal artist. In his search he came to the human figure and with the time it took the form he would be famous for. Very thin, shadow-like figures usually appear as notable, but always lonely objects. His figures have some special melancholic feeling to them; they almost do not exist, they seem to fade away or to appear at the distance. This correlated with the sentiments of the post-war society and existential philosophy. “Man – and man alone – reduced to a thread – in the dilapidation and misery of the world – who searches for himself – starting from nothing… Man on a pavement like burning iron; who cannot lift his heavy feet.” Francis Ponge wrote in his article.
Giacometti brought up one of the most basic questions of humanity – the meaning of an existence of a men, the relation between a person and the surrounding world, between himself and “the other”. What is our place in the universe? What should we be heading towards? These might be just the questions Giacometti’s sculptured people ask themselves.
We should also note special motions he used during the process of creation his works: almost automatic, repeating squeezing moves he did. Just like Pollock’s dripping technique, these moves served as a type of an act, a therapy if you wish, a way to conduct an energy into an art work. And Alberto Giacometti had found his voice and the way to brilliantly transmit bothering him questions into an amazing masterpieces of modern art.