May 21, 2017


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Lot 127: Alberto Giacometti

Lot 127: Alberto Giacometti


Ink on paper mounted to mat board
Signed, dated, and inscribed in ink at lower center "Stampa samedi soir 22 novembre 1952 en pensant a Paul Eluard Alberto Giacometti"
Composition: 8" x 5.5"; Mat (vis.): 14.5" x 11.25"; Frame: 18" x 14.75"
Together with certificate of authenticity
Estimate: $10,000 - $15,000
Price Realized: $9,375
Inventory Id: 25126

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This work is included in the Alberto Giacometti Database as no. 3733.

The work of Alberto Giacometti (1901—1966) is among the most important of the 20th century. Friends with the leading figures of the Parisian avant-garde, from Pablo Picasso to Joan Miró and Max Ernst, Giacometti’s distinctive figurative forms never fit within any single art movement. His unique oeuvre—comprising painting, drawing, and sculpture—was characterized by elongated, sinuous figures often rendered in rough, scratchy textures. For Giacometti, this was an attempt to shape and refine the body back to its core essence, an approach which was influenced by his studies of Egyptian and Etruscan art. His elegant works convey a sensitivity to the anguish of his fellow man amidst the scarred landscapes of postwar Europe, and they remain as intense and powerful as when they were first made.

Giacometti’s sensitive treatment of pain and suffering is evident in this unique drawing from 1952. Here, three birds can be seen flying around a single palm tree, which stands starkly against a faintly sketched–out horizon. The significance of this unusual, sparse composition can be explained by the tribute, handwritten in French below the drawing, which translates as “22 November 1952, thinking of Paul Éluard.” Éluard, a French poet and founder of the Surrealist movement, was close to Giacometti and had a formative influence on the artist’s work. His death from a heart attack at the age of 56, just four days before this drawing was made, plunged the French art world into mourning. Having been friends for over two decades, Giacometti was surely deeply affected by Éluard’s unexpected passing.

Perhaps the drawing was produced for the artist’s own private reflection, or for others close to Éluard. This might account for the difference between the composition and the artist’s more public–facing works. In fact, Giacometti was fond of using the tree motif in those works that he dedicated to friends. He created a sculpture of a miniature bronze tree for a memorial to the painter Francis Gruber, and a tableau of two twisting trees for the grave of the son of his dealers, Aimé and Marguerite Maeght. In this way, Giacometti substituted the typical memorial symbology of Christianity, such as the crucifix, for more universal emblems from nature. This delicate drawing is a touching tribute to a friendship between a painter and a poet.

Heathcote, Christopher. “When Beckett Commissioned Giacometti.” Quadrant Online (2003). N.pag. Web. 7 Apr. 2017. Wilson, Laurie. Alberto Giacometti: Myth, Magic, and the Man . New Haven: Yale University Press, 2003. 151, 158. Print.