These days, Alberto Giacometti is seen as the paradigm of his generation of Europeans—born in 1901, he died in 1966. He is regarded as the artist whose work best sums up the mood of the ravaged, postwar world and the tense decades of the nuclear age that followed. Recent horrors give his work new resonance. Beginning with Jean-Paul Sartre’s catalogue essay of 1948, Giacometti’s attenuated sculptures and scratchy paintings and drawings have been discussed in terms of existential angst, modern man’s isolation from his fellows, and the impossibility of certainty in our troubled age. His agitated surfaces and nervous line have been seen as evidence of acute sensitivity, even spirituality, and anxiety. From a formal point of view, his work is discussed in terms of forms threatened by space, of an impossible aspiration to make physical objects that are all but subsumed by a void.

The legend of Giacometti reinforces...


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