Design, Lifestyle

3 Reasons Why Giacometti Matters Today


Art History is a really difficult subject to talk about. It is something useless (art) combined with something boring (history).

At least it seems that way to most people I talk to. However I think that it is not only fascinating but necessary to fully understand these things we call humans. You can tell a lot about a person and even a period in history based on what that person chooses to put on a page (or a sculpture in this case.) I actually prefer to look at someone else’s art than have people look at mine. I have yet to paint something that I feel like comes from deep within my artistic soul. I usually prefer to stick with flowers or still life paintings. But that probably also shows something about who I am.

Photo credit: Emmalee Shallenberger

The artist that I’d like to focus on today is Alberto Giacometti and why he matters to the everyday, non-art-major pedestrian. So let’s get to it.

One: Giacometti gives us the “feels” of post WWII life in the world, especially Europe.

“[A]s an Existentialist after the war, he led the way in creating a style that summed up [Existentialist’s] interests in perception, alienation and anxiety.” His work shows the depth of isolation and anxiety that most people were feeling after WWII. You can look at his horrifying and beautiful statues and see how he and everyone else was feeling at that time.

Two: We also exist in a world where there is an increasing separation between individuals.

The put it this way, “[Giacometti’s] figures represented human beings alone in the world, turned in on themselves and failing to communicate with their fellows, despite their overwhelming desire to reach out.” Giacometti is a very relatable artist for modern day folks. He created many sketches and paintings during his active years: 1920s-mid 60s. But he is best known for his thin and rough statues from his late years. His statues are especially significant today in the light of the #metoo trend. People are just now coming forward with their own stories of anxiety, alienation, and misperception. I wonder how many of you feel like this sculpture? Stretched too thin, rough on the edges, but somehow still strong enough to keep moving. #Metoo women and men can look at a Giacometti statue and say “that’s how I feel.”

Photo credit: Emmalee Shallenberger

Three: He teaches us that beauty can come from a mess.

“…as if by magic, art grew from the rubbish; the plaster on the floor leapt up and took on permanence as a standing figure.” Jean Genet. There is a beautiful resilience to Giacometti’s art. Those figures are frail in appearance, but strong in substance. As a continent, Europe was feeling the weight of the unbelievable humans actions that killed millions of people. They were feeling lost and alone. Collectively they had an impossible task of moving forward out of that mess. Every one of them felt the loss of humanity. But out of that mess they came. It is inspiring to see such beauty in the strength that these sculptures show.

Alberto Giacometti will always be one of my favorite artists. In 2012 I had the privilege of seeing several of his statues at The Chicago Museum of Art. I recommend seeing them in person if you ever get the chance.

You didn’t get enough yet?

Here’s a short video to learn more about Giacometti and see more of his works: VIDEO

Or check out this blog post.

Or read this little synopsis:
“Born in Switzerland in 1901, Alberto Giacometti received his early foundation in art from family members before pursuing formal training in Geneva and Paris. In the 1920s he began to develop his personal style, creating abstracted sculptures that showed the influence of Cubism and tribal art. During the 1930s he became a part of the Surrealist movement, with his work becoming more dreamlike in nature, but he later split with the group when he became focused on new ways to express the human form. Influenced by the emergence of Existentialism, his small, thin figurative sculptures resonated with the atmosphere of suffering that followed World War II, and they were soon highly sought after. Giacometti’s work continued to evolve in the 1950s and 1960s, during which time he also produced an extensive series of portraits and provided illustrations for numerous books. After receiving several awards, honors and retrospective exhibitions, and achieving international fame, Giacometti died in 1966.” LINK