Alberto Giacometti (October 10, 1901 – January 11, 1966) was a Swiss sculptor, painter, draftsman, and printmaker.
Born in Borgonovo, now part of the Swiss municipality Stampa, near the Italian border, Alberto Giacometti was the son of Giovanni Giacometti. He moved to Geneva to attend the School of Fine Arts.
In 1922 he moved to Paris to study under the sculptor Antoine Bourdelle, an associate of Auguste Rodin. It was there that Giacometti experimented with cubism and surrealism and came to be regarded as one of the leading surrealist sculptors. Among his associates were Joan Miró, Max Ernst, Pablo Picasso and Balthus.
From 1936 to 1940 Giacometti concentrated his sculpting on the human head, focusing on the model's gaze, followed by a unique artistic phase in which his statues became stretched out; their limbs elongated. Obsessed with creating his sculptures exactly as he envisioned through his unique view of reality, he often carved until they were as thin as nails and reduced to the size of a pack of cigarettes, much to his consternation. A friend of his once said that if Giacometti decided to sculpt you, "he would make your head look like the blade of a knife." After his marriage his tiny sculptures became larger, but the larger they grew, the thinner they became. Giacometti said that the final result represented the sensation he felt when he looked at a woman.
His paintings underwent a parallel procedure. The figures appear isolated, are severely attenuated, and are the result of continuous reworking. Subjects were frequently revisited: one of his favorite models was his brother Diego Giacometti.
In 1962, Giacometti was awarded the grand prize for sculpture at the Venice Biennale, and the award brought with it worldwide celebrity. Even when he had achieved popularity and his works were in demand, he still reworked models, often destroying them or setting them aside to be returned to years later.
The prints produced by Giacometti are often overlooked but the catalogue raisonné, Giacometti - The Complete Graphics and 15 Drawings by Herbert Lust (Tudor 1970), comments on their impact and gives details of the number of copies of each print. Some of his most important images were in editions of only 30 and many were described as rare in 1970.
In his later years, Giacometti's works were shown in a number of large exhibitions throughout Europe. Riding a wave of international popularity, and despite his declining health, he traveled to the United States i 1965 for an exhibition of his works at the New York Museum of Modern Art.
As his last work he prepared the text for the book Paris sans fin, a sequence of 150 lithographs containing memories of all the places where he had lived.
Giacometti died in 1966 of heart disease and chronic bronchitis at the Kantonsspital in Chur, Switzerland. His body was returned to his birthplace in Borgonovo, where he was interred close to his parents.
His work is in numerous public collections, including the Kunsthaus Zürich, the Museum of Modern Art in New York, the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York, the Art Institute of Chicago, and the Carnegie Institute in Pittsburgh. He created the monument on the grave of Gerda Taro at Père Lachaise Cemetery.
In 2001 he was included in the Painting the Century 101 Portrait Masterpieces 1900-2000 exhibition held at the National Portrait Gallery, London.
In November 2000 Grande Femme Debout I by Giacometti sold for $14.3 million.
Giacometti and his sculpture Three Men Walking appear on the current 100 Swiss Franc banknote.
Biographical information from Wikipedia