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Tête d'homme
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Tête d'homme
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Descrizione dell'oggetto

Alberto Giacometti (1901-1966)\nTête d'homme\nplaster with an iron rod\nHeight: 10¼in. (26cm.)\nWidth: 5½in. (14cm.)\nExecuted circa 1950
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notes

Tête d'homme is a powerful example of Giacometti's recurring motif of the portrait bust. Executed in the early 1950s it is a work that explores the complex issues of phenomenology and Existentialism, which inhabit much of Giacometti's work of the post-war period. It is also a product of the burst of creativity that Giacometti experienced between 1946 and 1952. His return to Paris in September 1945 was closely followed by his marriage to Annette Arm in July 1949. These rapid developments in his personal life were reflected in Giacometti's sudden conception of a new style of working which was to become an instantly recognisable personal vision.

The elongation of this portrait conveys not the personality of the sitter but rather his universality. The crumpled folds of flesh overlaid on top of each other convey a definite sense of fragility. This is furthered by the use of a simple rod as a neck that denies the work any of the sensuality normally expected of a human figure. The suggestion of body mass provided by the base of the sculpture counterbalances the powerful upward thrust and functions as a reinforcement of the distance between the bust and the viewer. In these ways Giacometti completely subverts our expectations of portraiture as a representation of a recognisable sitter and instead presents a meditation on human existence itself.

The return to Paris is particularly significant in terms of Giacometti's renewed artistic and intellectual stimulation. The development of phenomenological theories had interested him greatly while in Geneva, but it was only after he returned to Paris that their impact became significant. Phenomenological criticism examined recurrent themes and images as a means of understanding the inner structures of individual consciousness. Such theories became particularly important in relation to Giacometti's friendship with Jean-Paul Sartre. Sartre's formulation of the concepts of Existentialism asserted that humanity is alone in the universe with no external spiritual being to offer meaning or structure to life. Such a world view can be related to the isolation that is articulated in Tête d'homme. The extreme thinness of the figure evokes a heightened awareness of the surrounding space that increases the poignancy of the viewer's encounter. As the work seems to diminish before our eyes, space encroaches to become an ambiguous sphere to be defined by the individual viewer. This remarkable example of the visual excitement and subtleties of Giacometti's unique sculptural style eloquently articulates this powerful vision.

title

Tête d'homme

medium

Plaster with an iron rod

creator

Alberto Giacometti

exhibited

Paris, Musée d'Art Moderne de la ville de Paris, Alberto Giacometti, sculptures, peintures, November 1991-march 1992, no. 119 (illustrated p. 215).

Madrid, Museo Nazional Centro de Arte Rena Sophia, Alberto Giacometti, 1991, illustrated p. 34.

dimensions

Height: 10¼in. (26cm.) Width: 5½in. (14cm.)


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