Watch as Alberto Giacometti Paints and Pursues the Elusive “Apparition” (1965)

The Swiss artist Alber­to Gia­comet­ti is most often remem­bered for his famous­ly thin, elon­gat­ed sculp­tures of the human form. But Gia­comet­ti was a sim­i­lar­ly bril­liant and orig­i­nal draughts­man who main­tained that draw­ing was the cen­tral skill of an artist. “One must stick exclu­sive­ly to draw­ing,” he once said. “If one dom­i­nates draw­ing even a lit­tle bit then every­thing else becomes pos­si­ble.”

Gia­comet­ti the draughts­man had a dis­tinc­tive way of rework­ing a line, of going over it again and again as if he were sculpt­ing in plas­ter. “When I make my draw­ings,” Gia­comet­ti said, “the path traced by my pen­cil on the sheet of paper is, to some extent, anal­o­gous to the ges­ture of a man grop­ing his way in the dark­ness.” The result­ing tan­gle of lines give his draw­ings a spe­cial vibran­cy, a sense of motion and depth on the two-dimen­sion­al plane.

In this excerpt from the 1966 film Alber­to Gia­comet­ti by the Swiss pho­tog­ra­ph­er Ernst Schei­deg­ger, we watch as Gia­comet­ti paints the foun­da­tion­al lines of a por­trait at his stu­dio in Mont­par­nasse. The footage was prob­a­bly shot in 1965, the last year of Gia­comet­ti’s life. The artist report­ed­ly saw the film not long before his death on Jan­u­ary 11, 1966. Watch­ing the film, we get a sense of Gia­comet­ti’s care for geom­e­try as he draws orga­ni­za­tion­al lines to work out the pro­por­tions. Gia­comet­ti would often leave these inter­sect­ing ver­ti­cal, hor­i­zon­tal and diag­o­nal lines–which would emerge organ­i­cal­ly as he went along–in his fin­ished works.

In the Ger­man nar­ra­tion, the speak­er describes Gia­comet­ti’s almost mys­ti­cal sense of the process: A face appears on the can­vas which is his own face but also that of anoth­er, dis­tant per­son who will appear out of the depth if only you reach out for him. But as you do reach out the per­son recedes, remain­ing just beyond your grasp. “The appari­tion,” Gia­comet­ti once said: “Some­times I think I can trap it, but then I lose it again and must begin once more.”

Spe­cial thanks to Matthias Rasch­er for his lin­guis­tic help.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Vin­tage Footage of Picas­so and Jack­son Pol­lock Paint­ing … Through Glass

Wass­i­ly Kandin­sky Caught in the Act of Cre­ation, 1926

by | Permalink | Comments (2) |

Sup­port Open Cul­ture

We’re hop­ing to rely on our loy­al read­ers rather than errat­ic ads. To sup­port Open Cul­ture’s edu­ca­tion­al mis­sion, please con­sid­er mak­ing a dona­tion. We accept Pay­Pal, Ven­mo (@openculture), Patre­on and Cryp­to! Please find all options here. We thank you!

Comments (2)
You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

Leave a Reply

Open Culture was founded by Dan Colman.