Visual research: Alberto Giacometti (1901-1966) – creation of depth and form

My tutor suggested me to look into the work of Alberto Giacometti (1901 – 1966) for his way of using ink and paint to create form and depth. Giacometti is well know for his thin figure sculptures. But he also established a wide range of drawings and paintings. A very good source for his work is the Fondation Giacometti.

Giacometti’s talent was recognized in his early ages, as his drawing ‘Ottila reading‘, 1918 shows. Here is already a drawn frame visible – it will come back much later in his paintings. With broad strokes – mainly in one direction – he drew the figure and the surrounding space. Less marks on the body and with contrast of light and dark he created depth and form. The pictorial space is still completely covered with marks, something that Giacometti will avoid during his later years. One example for that is his drawing 34 years later ‘Bouquet of daffodils in a vase’, 1952. Here he focused more on the object, only indicating with light marks a believable surrounding. He applied multiple outline marks – more or less dense – to shape the form and to create depth on them.

Stefan513593 - learning log - Alberto Giacometti - 1&2

Stefan513593 – learning log – Alberto Giacometti – 1&2

1) ‘Ottilia reading’, 1918 (Pen and black ink on paper, 33 x 26,1 cm)
[online image]. Private collection. Available from: http://www.fondation-giacometti.fr/en/art/16/discover-the-artwork/18/alberto-giacometti-database/22/graphic-arts/#?ref=database&open=drawings&work=1790 [accessed 17 January 2015]

2)‘Bouquet of daffodils in a vase’, 1952 (Pen and ink on notepaper, 29.8×21 cm)[online image]. Private collection. Available from: http://www.fondation-giacometti.fr/en/art/16/discover-the-artwork/18/alberto-giacometti-database/19/all-works/#?ref=database&open=all&work=1310  [accessed 17 January 2015]


 

During the years 1950s and 1960s his drawings and paintings became a more significant and autonomous oeuvre. A repeating topic are portraits. In his drawing ‘Three heads’, 1962, it is clear how Giacometti is focusing on the process of drawing, even on found paper (envelope), spontaneously searching for the form with scribbling marks that covers the figure like a web net. With multiple overlapping marks for the stronger edges and shadow areas contrasting with thinner marks he creates depth. Characteristic for that time are also his focus on the eye areas: strong outline marks and dark eye sockets are the figures nearly staring out of the picture plane. The surrounding space is empty without marks. This empty space is something that will be tackled deeper in his paintings

Stefan513593 - learning log - Alberto Giacometti - 3

Stefan513593 – learning log – Alberto Giacometti – 3

3) ‘Three heads’, 1962 (ink on envelope, 17×26.1cm) [online image]. Private collection. Available from: http://www.fondation-giacometti.fr/en/art/16/discover-the-artwork/18/alberto-giacometti-database/19/all-works/%20-%20?ref=database&open=all&extra=wish-list&work=1756#?work=1756  [accessed 17 January 2015]


 

I find that his ‘drawn’ paintings ‘Sir Robert Sainsbury‘, 1958 and ‘Annette with a coat’, 1964 are showing to a good extent his drawing technique – the process of outlining and finding a form – as well as his conceptual thought and marks on the surrounding, empty space. Both paintings depict a sitting person staring out of the picture plane. There are several elements that Giacometti applied to create a sense of form and depth:
– Outline marks for form
– Indicative light background marks and application of color for atmosphere and depth
– a few highlight marks for form

Further I notice that some marks are rather abstract, especially in the lower part of the picture. A mix of free line marks and color sweeps. Another characteristic is Giacometti’s drawing of one or two frames to create a more condensed pictorial space, that also supports certain depth perception like looking through door.

Stefan513593 - learning log - Alberto Giacometti - 4&5

Stefan513593 – learning log – Alberto Giacometti – 4&5

4) ‘Sir Robert Sainsbury’, 1958 (oil on canvas, 91.7×65.1 cm) [online image] Fondation Alberto et Annette Giacometti.. Available from: http://www.fondation-giacometti.fr/en/art/16/discover-the-artwork/18/alberto-giacometti-database/21/paintings/#?ref=database&open=paintings&work=1063  [accessed 17 January 2015]

5) ‘Annette with a coat’, 1964 (oil on canvas, 115.8 x 81.2 cm)
[online image]. Private collection. Available from: http://www.fondation-giacometti.fr/en/art/16/discover-the-artwork/18/alberto-giacometti-database/21/paintings/#?ref=database&open=paintings&work=1218 [accessed 17 January 2015]

Learnings:

What I Iike about Giacometti’s drawings and ‘drawn’ paintings is his free and expressive usage of line. Sometimes more scribbled as in the later drawings or more multiple outlines as in his paintings. In both cases he plays with the form and his denser marks provide a perception of depth. Remarkable is his focus on the eye areas in his figure works. This reminds me to some works from Edvard Munch (e.g ‘Madonna’, 1895-1902, available from: http://www.moma.org/collection/object.php?object_id=62017 ).
What impressed me, is his way of working out the negative and surrounding ’empty’ space. Some line marks, one or two drawn picture frames on the support, and in his paintings an interplay between line marks and color sweeps.

 

 

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