Giacometti was born into a Swiss family of artists. His early work was informed by Surrealism and Cubism, but in 1947 he settled into producing the kind of expressionist sculpture for which he is best known. His characteristic figures are extremely thin and attenuated, stretched vertically until they are mere wisps of the human form. Almost without volume or mass (although anchored with swollen, oversize feet), these skeletal forms appear weightless and remote. Their eerie otherworldliness is accentuated by the matte shades of gray and beige paint, sometimes accented with touches of pink or blue, that the artist applied over the brown patina of the metal. The rough, eroded, heavily worked surfaces of "Three Men Walking (II)" typify his technique. Reduced, as they are, to their very core, these figures evoke lone trees in winter that have lost their foliage. Within this style, Giacometti would rarely deviate from the three themes that preoccupied him—the walking man; the standing, nude woman; and the bust—or all three, combined in various groupings.
Giacometti's work can be seen to balance the concerns of the modern and the historical as well as the specific and the universal. While many have viewed his sculptures as emblematic of the horrors of World War II or representative of the alienation of modern urban life, his figures also contain specific allusions to ancient Egyptian burial figures and to early Greek korai. At the same time, the fragile figures are universalized, their tentative movements expressive of an essential human condition. In this work, the figures take wide steps, each in a different direction. The empty space around them acts as an obstacle to communication. They stride along, each untouched by another, alienated by the void that surrounds them.
Giacometti produced his first prints – wood etchings – alongside his father when he was still a schoolboy. During his life, Giacometti tried his hand at every print technique: wood, engraving, etching, aquatint, and above all, lithography, from 1949 onward. As a witness at André Breton’s wedding in 1934, he illustrated the anthology offered by the poet to his young wife, L’Air de l’eau. Giacometti, who was a great book lover and friend of many writers and poets, also illustrated the writings of René Crevel (Les Pieds dans le Plat, 1933), Georges Bataille (Histoire de rats, 1947), Michel Leiris (Vivantes cendres, innommées, 1961), and René Char (Retour Amont, 1965). From 1951 onward, he produced lithographic plates which were separately published by the Maeght Gallery. Giacometti was always in favour of disseminating his work through quality editions. Lithography involving the transfer of a drawing onto a zinc plate offered the advantage of requiring lightweight equipment that was easy to handle: special paper and a lithographic pencil.The artist was thus able to leave his studio, go out into the street and sketch his city, café terraces, the overhead Metro, modern building sites like Orly airport, and the lithographer’s print shop, and then return to his studio. This would be the subject of Paris sans fin, a collection of 150 prints commissioned by the publisher Tériade, on which Giacometti worked from 1959 on, but which was not published until after his premature death.
Annette de Face.
1955. Original etching. 14 3/4 x 19 15/16"