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ALBERTO GIACOMETTI AND HIS STUDIOS
Didaktika is a project that complements every exhibition with special educational areas and activities, offering tools and resources to help viewers understand and appreciate the art on display.
In this educational space, you can find out more about Swiss sculptor and painter Alberto Giacometti (b. 1901, Borgonovo, Switzerland; d. 1966 Chur, Switzerland) and explore the two places where the artist worked: his father‘s large, bright studio in Stampa, the village in Val Bregaglia where he spent his childhood, and the small, dark studio on the Rue Hippolyte-Maindron in Paris, which he occupied for nearly 40 years, starting in 1926.
GIACOMETTI'S STUDIO IN PARIS
In December 1926, Alberto Giacometti occupied what was to become his studio until the end of his life. It was a rented 23 m2 space on the Rue Hippolyte-Maindron, near Montparnasse. One of his brothers, Diego, joined him in 1929 and became his assistant. Among other duties, Diego took charge of making the pedestals and metal structures on which Alberto created his plaster sculptures, and of applying the patina to his bronzes.
The studio was a tiny, narrow, and uncomfortable room with some small annexes where the Giacometti brothers lived. Books, paintings, drawings, and plaster sculptures were heaped up everywhere, and there was so little space that the artist sometimes had to take the sculptures out to the street to reflect on their scale. Giacometti frequently noted down ideas or made sketches directly on the walls. In the portraits and other paintings he produced there, the grayish daylight that filtered through the windows is clearly appreciable. His palette consisted mostly of grays and ochers with the occasional reddish touch. To feed his creative obsession, the artist constantly asked his friends (including intellectuals like Simone de Beauvoir, Jean-Paul Sartre and Isaku Yanaihara) and family (his brother Diego or his wife Annette) to sit for him. In 1932, for instance, he did two drawings for Donna Madina Gonzaga, an Italian aristocrat he had befriended, in the background of which it is possible to make out many of the pieces the artist had made during that period, and others he was then working on. Among them are two major works that currently form part of the Guggenheim Collections, Spoon Woman (1926–27, cast in 1954) and Walking Woman (1932).
In 1942, World War II drove Giacometti away from Paris to Geneva. Diego took care of keeping the atelier exactly as the artist had left it until his return in 1945. Although he was by now an acclaimed artist with some spending power, he never left that studio because he felt a special attachment to it. Despite its small size, the sculptor in fact once claimed that the longer he spent in it, “the bigger it got.”
After Giacometti’s death in 1966, the studio returned to its owner, but Annette, the artist’s widow, kept everything that had belonged there, including the painted walls, the furnishings, and the artworks that took up nearly every inch of that tiny space. Last June, the Institut Giacometti was inaugurated in Paris. It contains a reconstruction of the studio that was made possible by the pieces his widow had preserved.
GIACOMETTI'S STUDIO IN STAMPA
Alberto’s father, Giovanni Giacometti, was a reputed Swiss Neo-Impressionist painter and engraver. He transformed the old stable adjoining the family home in Val Bregaglia into a studio that was shared by his son during his childhood and adolescence. Alberto took over the studio when his father died, and although he was then already living in Paris, he went back there every summer to visit his mother and other relatives. Occasionally, he would also go to Stampa in the winter. The size, brightness, comfort, and order of this studio made a striking contrast with the tiny, poor, gray, cluttered space of the Paris atelier. Between the pinewood walls of the Stampa studio, Giacometti concentrated on drawing and painting, although he also made sculptures in plaster and clay. Through the windows, the artist could see the imposing mountains and wooded landscape of Val Bregaglia, which he would often draw and paint. His attention was drawn especially by the trees, in whose forms he found great similarities with human beings.
There, in the 1940s, Giacometti started regularly doing portraits of his mother, Annetta, a woman with a strong personality. Annette Arm, who the artist married in 1949, also became his habitual model, and would pose patiently for hours both in the studio and in the living-room of the family home in Stampa, and also in the different places she went to with the sculptor.
When working, Giacometti was very meticulous about maintaining the position of each sitter and the distance between the artist and the model. The floor of the Stampa studio was therefore full of marks, which were never removed, indicating the exact position of the legs of each model’s chair, his own stool, and the easel. In this way, the artist made sure that on successive days, or the following year if he had not finished the piece during his stay, he could resume the work at exactly the same distance and position.
What makes the Stampa atelier special is that it is both a family home and an artistic space that was shared for years by father and son, and to which the artist later returned to visit his mother and continue his creative work. Among the most outstanding pieces he produced there are some of his gray paintings. “If I see everything in gray,” he said, “and in that gray the multitude of all the colors I feel and would like to display, then why use another color?”
Thursday, October 17, 6:30 pm
A lecture on the significance and the vast artistic production of Swiss artist Alberto Giacometti.
CREATIVE SESSIONS [+18] MODELING-SCULPTURE WORKSHOP
Saturdays, November 3 and 10, 6 pm
Learn how Alberto Giacometti worked with materials like clay and plaster, and discover the relationship between his sculptures and objects for everyday use.
Venue: Education Room
Audio guide and adapted guides
The audio guides, available at the Museum entrance, provide further information on the works in each exhibition.
Ask at the Information desk for audio/video guides for people with cognitive, hearing and/or visual impairments.
Free quick tours on the artworks exhibited. Check times, topics, and available languages at the Information desk.
Tickets: Free admission. Max. 20 people (first come, first served; no prior reservation). Groups will not be admitted