The first ever exhibition solely to consist of portraits by the twentieth-century artist Alberto Giacometti opens at the National Portrait Gallery tomorrow, Thursday 15 October.
Giacometti: Pure Presence (15 October 2015 – 10 January 2016) comprises over 60 works, including paintings, sculptures and drawings, spanning the entire range of the Swiss artist’s career. Including very rare loans from private collections and seldom-seen portraits, the exhibition marks the fiftieth anniversary of Giacometti’s death.
Best known for his sculptures of elongated figures, Alberto Giacometti (1901-66) is widely known as a leading twentieth century sculptor working alongside Picasso, Miró and Ernst in Paris in the 1920s. But the Gallery’s exhibition emphasises the portraits also produced by the sculptor during this time at his family home in Switzerland where he steered a lesser-known, parallel artistic course. Beyond that, and covering the period 1914 to 1966, the exhibition reveals Giacometti’s life-long preoccupation with portraiture and ’copying appearance.’
The exhibition focuses on the intensity of his relationships with frequent sitters such as members of his close family; Isabel Nichol (who later became Francis Bacon’s muse Isabel Rawsthorne); and the young woman Caroline, whom he met in 1960 and who sat for his portraits over the following five years, and displays portraits of all his main models, including his wife Annette and his brother Diego, as well as such friends as the writers Louis Aragon and Jean Genet, and the philanthropist Lord Sainsbury. The exhibition also features a room of photographs documenting the artist’s life.
Highlights include his earliest portrait bust of his brother Diego created in 1914 when he was just thirteen years old and his last bronze busts from 1965. These are displayed alongside an astonishing range of paintings and drawings which show Giacometti’s development from post-impressionist influences via cubism to expressionist portraits of figures in highly charged spaces, reminiscent of the ‘caged’ compositions of Francis Bacon.
Major sculptures on show range from a serene head of Isabel inspired by Egyptian sculpture to portraits of Diego and Annette: gnawed, dissolving heads and figures that became Giacometti’s trademarks. Such sculptures are frequently pared down to very small forms evoking the experience of observing the sitter from a distance.
One of the artist’s most celebrated tall hieratic figures Woman of Venice VIII, stands at the centre of the exhibition, making a vital contact between Giacometti’s portraits and his famous sculptures evoking an archetypal human presence.
Curator, Paul Moorhouse, says:
Giacometti is widely celebrated as one of the giants of modern art, but his almost continuous involvement with portraiture is less well known. In devoting individual rooms to his main models, the exhibition exposes the singular, obsessive and intense nature of Giacometti’s portraits. Repetition, variation, accretion and dissolution are revealed as vital elements in his extraordinary vision.
GIACOMETTI: PURE PRESENCE
15 October 2015 -10 January 2016, National Portrait Gallery, London www.npg.org.uk
Tickets with donation: Full price £17 / Concessions £15.50
Tickets without donation Full price £15 / Concessions £13.50 (Free for Members and Patrons)
www.npg.org.uk/giacometti or 020 7766 7344