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An early example of the mature style with which Giacometti is usually identified, this figure is more elongated and dematerialized than Woman Walking, although it retains that sculpture’s frontality and immobility. A sense of ghostly fragility detaches the figure from the world around it, despite the crusty materiality of the surfaces, as animated and responsive to light as those of Rodin.
Giacometti exploited the contradictions of perception in the haunting, incorporeal sculptures of this period. His matchstick-sized figures of 1942–46 demonstrate the effect of distance on size and comment on the notion that the essence of an individual persists even as the body appears to vanish, that is, to become nonexistent. Even his large-scale standing women and striding men seem miniaturized and insubstantial. In 1947 the sculptor commented that “lifesize figures irritate me, after all, because a person passing by on the street has no weight; in any case he’s much lighter than the same person when he’s dead or has fainted. He keeps his balance with his legs. You don’t feel your weight. I wanted—without having thought about it—to reproduce this lightness, and that by making the body so thin.”¹ Giacometti sought to convey several notions simultaneously in his attenuated plastic forms: one’s consciousness of the nonmaterial presence of another person, the insubstantiality of the physical body housing that presence, and the paradoxical nature of perception. The base from which the woman appears to grow like a tree is tilted, emphasizing the verticality of the figure as well as reiterating the contours of the merged feet.
Giacometti had the present cast made expressly for Peggy Guggenheim.
1. Quoted in R. Hohl, Alberto Giacometti,, New York, 1971, p. 278.