Alberto Giacometti, the famous Swiss sculptor, is extremely well known in the art world for his eerie, slender, bronze figures, which are immediately recognizable. Giacometti was a strange, dark character to be sure, but he led a life full of tender and surprising anecdotes that will interest any of this genius’ admirers.
He was a student of Antoine Bourdelle
Giovanni Giacometti, Alberto’s father, was a well-regarded Swiss impressionist painter, and his godfather was none other that Cuno Amiet, the symbolist painter. Thanks to these enriching, immersive influences, his passion for sculpture brought him to Paris at the age of 21 to study at the Académie de la Grande Chaumière, which was run by the famous sculptor Antoine Bourdelle, a former student of Rodin.
Although he was quickly disappointed by the master’s teachings and did not visit the academy very regularly, this period of apprenticeship introduced him to non-Western forms of representations and allowed him to learn all about monumentality and base, something that would become essential in the creation of his slender figures.
Destinations Unlocked:Let our travel expert Stefano help you find your perfect Culture trip
Looking for an expert's perspective?Uncover my top 3 recommended places from each continent on the map.
1. GuatemalaAn express adventure for those with limited time off. Prepare yourself incredible experiences. You will hike a volcano, visit mayan temples and witness a ceremony and take in beautiful colonial Antigua.
2. BelizeA quick trip not too far away for those seeking a relaxing mini break. You will have plenty of free time to relax but also some awesome activities to experience the rainforest and the caribbean sea.
3. MexicoAn exciting mini trip exploring the lesser known colonial towns of central Mexico. This is hte perfect trip for someone with limited time off and still wants to turn on explorer mode and do something different.
1. EcuadorA remarkable 8 days adventure through the Andes and the Amazon rainforest. The best choice for adventure seekers wishing to visit the 2 most iconic areas of South America, in only 1 week and no flights.
2. PeruAn alternative itinerary to classic Peru, from Cusco to Arequipa. This itinerary is great combination of highlights Cusco and Machu Picchu with the lesser known Arequipa and Colca Canyon.
1. ItalyThe ultimate Italian experience from the vibrant streets of Naples to the breathtaking sceneries of the Amalfi Coast followed by Matera and down to Puglia with its golden beaches, intense flavours and fascinating destinations.
2. ScotlandEmbark on this great adventure starting from London all the way to Scotland with a true Scottish experience made of breathtaking sceneries, whisky tasting and ..lots of fun! Ideal for train lovers and explorers.
3. PortugalA wonderful train journey around Portugal, from the romantic city of Porto to the Douro Valley, to the beautiful Aveiro all the way to Lisbon and Sintra. The perfect trip to train, culinary and culture lovers.
1. South KoreaDiscover incredible temples, mountains and modern cities on this 10 day adventure. This trip is perfect for those seeking immersion in the cuisine, culture and natural wonders of South Korea.
2. ThailandFrom Bankgok to Angkor Wat to Ho Chi Minh City and everything in between - adventure through the heart of South-East Asia. Taste the delights, see history brought to life and unwind on a Mekong River cruise.
3. Sri LankaA fantastic adventure that showcases Sri Lanka's fantastic landscapes, wildlife and flavours. With 3 epic rail journeys, 3 UNESCO heritage sites and time to relax, this trip has loads to offer at a great price
1. MoroccoAn epic journey across Morocco: from Casablanca to Marrakech, through the blue city of Chefchaouen to the wonders of the desert and deep to the High Atlas Mountains - this trip has it all! Ideal for true explorers!
2. EgyptFrom Cairo to Aswan, this trip brings the land of the pharaohs to life. You'll visit the Pyramids, Valley of the Kings and Luxor Temple and cruise down the Nile in style. This is the perfect way to explore Egypt.
There Would Have Been No Alberto Without Diego
The first sculpture Alberto ever created was in his father’s studio when he was only 14 — he sculpted the bust of his brother Diego, who was a year younger than him. The two brothers would remain inseparable for the rest of their lives, and more than any woman or friend, it was Diego who would become Alberto’s life-long partner. Diego moved to Paris in 1925 to help Alberto out and was his model for more than 50 years. In the 1930s, Diego collaborated with others to make furniture and other decorative arts, but was always truly with his brother. Diego was so close and loyal to his brother that though Alberto spent the war years in Switzerland, Diego remained in Paris until his return in 1945, as a custodian and keeper of their studio/apartment.
He Truly Liked His Studio
He Was Obsessed With Heads
Alberto Giacometti’s life-long obsession was the heads of the people around him and the faces of those closest to him, like Diego, his wife Annette, or his lovers and friends. He said of Diego: ‘When he poses for me I don’t recognize him’ — and this was the frustrating realization that drove him to try and express his true visions over and over again. At 25, he gave up the attempt, thinking that he would never be able to represent these features as he ‘really’ saw them, but these faces kept haunting him, and ten years later, in spite of himself, he returned to human anatomy. He claimed to never think of the interior or psychology of the people he loved when he portrayed them, and yet he restlessly tried to realize his vision of their faces and silhouettes in sculpture, without, according to him, ever succeeding.
His Was Expelled From The Surrealist group
During a break in which he seemingly had given up on representational sculpture, Giacometti began to study the latest developments in abstract art and Cubism in Europe, as well as the art of Oceania and primitive influence. The surrealists reacted with excitement to Giacometti’s productions at the time — especially ‘Gazing Head’ in 1929 — and they wrote texts on his pieces, defining them as ‘true fetishes’ and accepting him into the movement. In the early years of the 1930s, Giacometti willingly associated himself with the group led by André Breton, participated in collective exhibitions, and wrote in their journals. But this association didn’t last long, and around 1935, Giacometti begun flirting with figuration once again and had models sit for him. The surrealists felt betrayed by him and set up a meeting which turned out to be more of an interrogation. It was then that Giacometti was expelled from the group and had to break ties with many of his surrealist friends, with the exception of Aragon and Ernst.
He Was Well Surrounded
It didn’t take Alberto long to attract the attention of people like Masson, Arp, Miró, Calder or even Picasso. Less than five years in Paris were enough for the young Swiss artist’s exhibitions to be covered by poets and writers like Bataille or Aragon. After falling out with the Surrealists, figurative painters like Balthus or Derain also reached out to him. He was approached by many admirers in Saint-Germain, where he frequented cafés, and soon, the likes of Samuel Beckett and Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir did the same. Beckett was his companion in his nightly adventures through the Parisian brothels and bars, and in the daytime, Alberto often visited Picasso in his studio.
He Is Best Understood When We Read What These People Said About Him
The philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre approached Alberto at the famous Café de Flore in 1939. This would be the beginning of a long friendship, which would only end when Giacometti read an inaccurate description of a story he had told to Sartre, years later in Sartre’s biography. For Sartre, Giacometti’s art was about an obsession with man’s emptiness: ‘An exhibition by Giacometti is a population. He sculpted men who cross a square without seeing each other; they cross each other irremediably alone, and yet, they are together.’ At other times, Sartre wrote about Giacometti’s true obsession, faces: ‘I know nobody as sensitive as he to the magic of faces and gestures; he regards them with a passionate desire, as if he were from another realm.’
He Never Smiled
Alberto was known to have a great sense of humor; he was successful throughout his lifetime; he was loved by artists and women alike; yet, when you look at pictures of him, you’ll notice that the man rarely smiled. The truth is that Alberto’s teeth were a mess. He was a chain smoker and coffee made up most of the meals he consumed in his teeny Montparnasse studio. These bad habits ultimately led him to suffer from stomach problems and later, cancer. Although he battled it and won at first, his exhausting routines and stubborn bad habits led him to succumb in the end. In interviews or photos, a quick, shy grin is all you would see from him.
By Rocio Chillida
Volcanic Iceland Epic Trip
meet our Local Insider
HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN A GUIDE?
WHAT DO YOU LOVE ABOUT YOUR JOB?
It's the personal contact, the personal experiences. I love meeting people from all over the world... I really like getting to know everyone and feeling like I'm traveling with a group of friends.
WHAT DESTINATION IS ON YOUR TRAVEL BUCKET-LIST?
I have so many places on my list, but I would really lobe to go to Africa. I consider myself an “adventure girl” and Africa feels like the ULTIMATE adventure!
Every CULTURE TRIP Small-group adventure is led by a Local Insider just like Hanna.
KEEN TO EXPLORE THE WORLD?
Connect with like-minded people on our premium trips curated by local insiders and with care for the world
Since you are here, we would like to share our vision for the future of travel - and the direction Culture Trip is moving in.
Culture Trip launched in 2011 with a simple yet passionate mission: to inspire people to go beyond their boundaries and experience what makes a place, its people and its culture special and meaningful — and this is still in our DNA today. We are proud that, for more than a decade, millions like you have trusted our award-winning recommendations by people who deeply understand what makes certain places and communities so special.
Increasingly we believe the world needs more meaningful, real-life connections between curious travellers keen to explore the world in a more responsible way. That is why we have intensively curated a collection of premium small-group trips as an invitation to meet and connect with new, like-minded people for once-in-a-lifetime experiences in three categories: Culture Trips, Rail Trips and Private Trips. Our Trips are suitable for both solo travelers, couples and friends who want to explore the world together.
Culture Trips are deeply immersive 5 to 16 days itineraries, that combine authentic local experiences, exciting activities and 4-5* accommodation to look forward to at the end of each day. Our Rail Trips are our most planet-friendly itineraries that invite you to take the scenic route, relax whilst getting under the skin of a destination. Our Private Trips are fully tailored itineraries, curated by our Travel Experts specifically for you, your friends or your family.
We know that many of you worry about the environmental impact of travel and are looking for ways of expanding horizons in ways that do minimal harm - and may even bring benefits. We are committed to go as far as possible in curating our trips with care for the planet. That is why all of our trips are flightless in destination, fully carbon offset - and we have ambitious plans to be net zero in the very near future.