An Intimate Look at Alberto Giacometti in His Studio, Making His Iconic Sculptures (1965)

A vis­it to an artist’s stu­dio can shed light on his or her work.

The British Arts Coun­cil’s short film above affords an inti­mate glimpse into Alber­to Gia­comet­ti’s stu­dio in Mont­par­nasse cir­ca 1965, the year when he was the sub­ject of major ret­ro­spec­tives at both the Tate Gallery and the Muse­um of Mod­ern Art in New York.

The artist passed most of his work­ing life in cramped space at 46 rue Hip­poly­te. Ear­ly on, he enter­tained plans to relo­cate “because it was too small – just a hole.”

Oth­ers vis­i­tors to the stu­dio described the artist’s envi­rons in more lit­er­ary terms:

In a charm­ing lit­tle for­got­ten gar­den he has a stu­dio, sub­merged in plas­ter, and he lives next to this in a kind of hangar, vast and cold, with nei­ther fur­ni­ture nor food. He works very hard for fif­teen hours at a stretch, above all at night: the cold, his frozen hands – he takes no notice, he works. Simone de Beau­voir


This ground floor stu­dio… is going to cave in at any moment now. It is made of worm-eat­en wood and grey pow­der.… Every­thing is stained and ready for the bin, every­thing is pre­car­i­ous and about to col­lapse, every­thing is about to dis­solve, every­thing is float­ing.… And yet it all appears to be cap­tured in an absolute real­i­ty. When I leave the stu­dio, when I am out­side on the street, then noth­ing that sur­rounds me is true. — Play­wright Jean Genet


The whole place look­ing as if it had been thrown togeth­er with a few old sticks and a lot of chew­ing gum.… In short, a dump. Any­way he said come in when I knocked.… He turned and glanced at me, hold­ing out his hand which was cov­ered in clay, so I shook his wrist.… He imme­di­ate­ly resumed work, run­ning his fin­gers up and down the clay so fierce­ly that lumps fell onto the floor - Essay­ist James Lord

These impres­sions paint a por­trait of a dri­ven, and dis­ci­plined artist, who logged untold hours mod­el­ing his formes elongee in clay, uncer­e­mo­ni­ous­ly crum­pling and rebuild­ing in the pur­suit of excel­lence.

The cam­era doc­u­ments this inten­si­ty, though his untrans­lat­ed remarks sug­gest a man capa­ble of tak­ing him­self light­ly, cer­tain­ly more so than the accom­pa­ny­ing nar­ra­tion does.

Like the nar­ra­tion, Roger Smal­l­ey’s dis­so­nant score lays it on thick, the son­ic equiv­a­lent of heads like blades and “limbs bound as though ban­daged for the grave.” Per­haps we should con­ceive of the stu­dio as a scary place?

In actu­al­i­ty, it proved a hos­pitable work envi­ron­ment and the impulse to relo­cate even­tu­al­ly waned, with the artist observ­ing that “the longer I stayed, the big­ger it became. I could fit any­thing I want­ed into it.”

Explore the recent Tate Mod­ern Gia­comet­ti ret­ro­spec­tive here and take a clos­er look at the stu­dio via Ernst Scheidegger’s pho­tos.

Gia­comet­ti” will be added to our list of Free Doc­u­men­taries, a sub­set of our col­lec­tion, 4,000+ Free Movies Online: Great Clas­sics, Indies, Noir, West­erns, Doc­u­men­taries & More.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Watch Icon­ic Artists at Work: Rare Videos of Picas­so, Matisse, Kandin­sky, Renoir, Mon­et, Pol­lock & More

Watch 1915 Video of Mon­et, Renoir, Rodin & Degas: The New Motion Pic­ture Cam­era Cap­tures the Inno­v­a­tive Artists

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Ayun Hal­l­i­day is an author, illus­tra­tor, the­ater mak­er and Chief Pri­ma­tol­o­gist of the East Vil­lage Inky zine.  Fol­low her @AyunHalliday.

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