Giacometti’s paintings and sketches are hauntingly beautiful. They show the grace of shape and form and clearly demonstrate the shape and form as seen by an artist. This, as the exhibition explores, is very different from what one sees in real life.
Giacometti is well-known for his sculptures, which are characteristically very tall and thin and since the sale of his 1961 bronze “Walking Man I” to billionaire Lily Safra for £65 million (then $103.4 million), he has become a much sought after celebrity artist.
Giacometti was a painter, a draughtsman and a printmaker, as well as a sculptor and in the exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery in London we meet Giacometti the painter. The exhibition traces his work from his earliest paintings and sculptures through his time in Paris to his final years.
It is through this work that we get closer to the artist, in his paintings it is easier to see the man and how his life shaped his art. Giacometti focused on his family and close friends for his paintings. He painted the same subjects over and over again; his brother Diego and his mother were two of his favourite subjects and we encounter their portraits throughout the exhibition. In fact Giacometti was obsessed by recording how people looked to him. He was fascinated by what he saw as he created and how it differed from copying exactly what he saw. He constantly explored what could be copied exactly and what was created by what is seen. He wanted to understand how to realise the abstract from the imitated form.
There are over sixty works on display, including sculptures and we see how his paintings and sculptures underwent the same treatment; appearing in isolation, severely attenuated, a result of continuous reworkings. The results whether they are on canvas or in bronze are the same, simple, beautiful and mesmerizing.
Giacometti – Pure Essence is on at the National Portrait Gallery in London until 10th January 2016. For more information visit: http://www.npg.org.uk/