giacometti sculptures composition
Here, the influence of African sculpture seems to be unmistakably present, as it was also in some of the works of Picasso dating back to this period. Giacometti’s ‘Couple’ achieves a balance that is extraordinary in its quiet, almost natural unobtrusiveness, calmness, and perfect simplicity. It ‘rests’ in itself, achieving sheer presence. It projects a sense of perfect (‘natural’) harmony. The great simplicity of the abstraction (or should I say, stylization [Stilisierung]?) achieved astounds; what I perceive here is the symbolization of the human face, choosing two different forms of expression: the left one is an oval form that culminates in a single point (though not sharply); the right one, on the other hand, is a form that is determined by almost straight lines of which the longer, almost vertical ones are not running parallel, however: they are slightly more apart at the bottom than they are at the top. I cannot help noticing the displaced eyes, the transformed shape of the mouth, the stylized indication of cheekbones, the (by and large) flat surface of each face.
Another work of that year is featuring again the wife of the artist. It is called the ‘Bust of Annette’ (‘Buste van Annette [of Venetië]; 1962). I cannot help noticing the earnest face. And in the case of this work, the upper part of the body is given in a less fragmentary way.
The Fondation Alberto et Annette Giacometti, having received a bequest from Alberto Giacometti’s widow Annette, holds a collection of circa 5,000 works, frequently displayed around the world through exhibitions and long-term loans. A public interest institution, the Foundation was created in 2003 and aims at promoting, disseminating, preserving and protecting Alberto Giacometti’s work.
Giacometti was born in Borgonovo, Switzerland, in the canton Graubünden’s southerly alpine valley Val Bregaglia near the Italian border, as the eldest of four children of Giovanni Giacometti, a well-known post-Impressionist painter, and Annetta Giacometti-Stampa. He was a descendant of Protestant refugees escaping the inquisition. Coming from an artistic background, he was interested in art from an early age. Alberto attended the Geneva School of Fine Arts. His brothers Diego (1902–1985) and Bruno (1907–2012) would go on to become artists and architects as well. Additionally, his cousin Zaccaria Giacometti, later professor of constitutional law and chancellor of the University of Zurich, grew up together with them, having been orphaned at the age of 12 in 1905. 
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His early acquaintances included artists Ossip Zadkine and Jacques Lipchitz, who invited him to their studios and gave him encouragement. The so-called ‘cubist’ Compositions made in around 1927 reflect this new connection; the motifs are similar to those of Zadkine’s Accordion Player 1922–6 and Lipchitz’s Bather 1917–18 and Guitar Player c.1918.
These examples of Giacometti’s formal development also suggest an engagement with ideas that anticipate his involvement in Breton’s surrealist group from the spring of 1929. Many surrealists saw the language of ‘primitive’ art as providing a means of accessing repressed human impulses, although Giacometti, according to the art historian Reinhold Hohl, remained ‘primarily concerned with questions of composition and design’ (Hohl 1972, p.79).
Reinhold Hohl, Alberto Giacometti: Sculpture Painting, Drawing, London 1972, p.79, reproduced p.42.
Yves Bonnefoy, Alberto Giacometti: A Biography of His Work, trans. by Jean Stewart, Paris 1991, p.144, reproduced p.147.
Laurie Wilson, Alberto Giacometti: Myth, Magic, and the Man, New Haven 2003.
In 1927 he sculpted a square Head (Self-Portrait) in which the face is reduced to a purely graphic, abstract linear sign etched into the material. In the ‘plaques’ from 1927–9, which represent human figures (pp.148–51), the organs are also reduced to engraved or lightly sculpted abstract signs, imposing a frontal reading of this sculpture which comes close to drawing. The recurrence of these signs from one plaque to the next transforms them into symbols, whose interpretation is sometimes facilitated by explicit titles (Man, Woman, Gazing Head). ‘It was no more than a plaque placed in space in a certain way, in which there were just two hollows, which were what you might call the vertical and horizontal side that you find in any figure.’ Functioning like the frame in his drawings, the quadrangular structure forces us to identify a human body and keeps the work within the realm of figuration.
There was considerable interest in the occult power of exotic and ancient writings during this period, and Giacometti was an avid reader of the new artistic publications that expressed it. Their influence led him to add further complexity to his symbolic system of expression. In 1929 Robert Desnos published an article in Documents about the myth of the ‘hieroglyphs’ thought to contain the secret of the philosopher’s stone owned by alchemist Nicholas Flamel (this reference also appears in André Breton’s Second Manifesto of Surrealism). Georges Bataille presented a surprising analysis of the ‘language of flowers’ in this journal which also featured various articles on numismatic symbols and the graphological study of the writings of the Marquis de Sade. An article about Oceanic art in Cahiers d’art reproduced ideograms from ‘the script of Easter Island’.