Members of the Art Appreciation group went to see Tate Modern’s recent Giacometti exhibition – the first major retrospective of his work in the UK for 20 years. Rosemary Hobbs reports
A small group of us made an informal arrangement to travel by train to view the Giacometti exhibition at Tate Modern in early September. The walk from Waterloo to Bankside along the Thames is always a pleasure, and the terrace at the top of the new Blavatnik Building gives a 360° panoramic view of the London skyline.
The Swiss sculptor Alberto Giacometti (1901-66) is best known for his stick figures, but this exhibition puts his work in context, from early busts in a range of borrowed styles to the Surrealism of the 1920-30s and existentialism during and after the war.
Most of his working life was spent in a studio in Paris, except for a few years of exile in Geneva. It is said that he returned to Paris with all the sculptures he had made through the Second World War contained in six matchboxes, and some of these minute figures were on display. Giacometti explained that the smallest of his sculptures was ‘born of the desire to represent a memory of a friend seen from afar in Paris’.
Personally, I felt repulsed by the misogynism and fetishism implied in some of the early Surrealist work, such as Woman With Her Throat Cut (1932). However, later sculptures such as the loping dog and striding man perfectly capture the animation of their subjects.
In later life Giacometti became entirely obsessed with his ‘stick figure’ sculptures, endlessly reproducing the features of his brother Diego and his wife, Annette, in an attempt to capture their inner personality – and always being unsatisfied that he had succeeded. This gave the end of the exhibition a rather depressing feel, but overall it was a fascinating overview of the artist’s working life.