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Grande femme debout I
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Grande femme debout I
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Sobre el objeto

Alberto Giacometti (1901-1966)\nGrande femme debout I\nsigned and numbered 'Alberto Giacometti 5/6' (on the left side of the base); inscribed with foundry mark 'Susse Fondeur Paris' (on the back of the base)\nbronze with dark brown patina\nHeight: 105½ in. (268 cm.)\nConceived in 1960; this bronze version cast in 1962
US
NY, US
US

notes

The four versions of Grande femme debout occupy a pivotal place in Giacometti's oeuvre, representing a culmination of ideas that preoccupied the artist throughout his career. His largest sculptures ever and the last monumental works that he completed before his death, the Grandes femmes exemplify the gaunt, elongated proportions which are the hallmark of the artist's post-war work. Initially intended to ornament a public plaza, the Grandes femmes also engage Giacometti's long-standing desire to execute sculpture for a city square; and in conjunction with the Homme qui marche (Bonnefoy 390-391), they reflect his fascination with the theme of people seen together in urban environments (fig. 1). Finally, their studied balance of dignified inaccessibility and craggy materiality--coupled with their sheer scale--makes the Grandes femmes among the most enigmatic and compelling of all Giacometti's sculptures.

The Grandes femmes were conceived as part of a monumental sculptural group to be placed in the plaza of the newly erected Chase Manhattan Bank building in New York. Designed by the modernist architect and art collector Gordon Bunshaft, the sixty-story Wall Street skyscraper was at the time among the world's tallest. Proportionately impressive sculpture was sought to fill the spacious plaza, and in 1958 Giacometti and Alexander Calder were selected to submit designs. Although Giacometti had never been to New York and had never seen an actual skyscraper, he was immediately responsive to the project, writing to his mother that it interested him passionately. Busy on a portrait of Annette and anxious to begin a new bust of Diego, however, he was unable to travel across the Atlantic to view the site, and a scale model of the bank and plaza was sent to him in Paris.

Chase Manhattan's initial proposal was that Giacometti make a colossal enlargement of the Trois hommes qui marchent of 1948-1949 (Bonnefoy 305). Upon receiving the scale model, however, the artist decided instead to embark on a new multi-figure composition, comprised of an over-life-size standing woman, a life-size striding man, and a monumental head. He first made small maquettes of the three sculptures, then began to model the full-size plasters: two versions each of the Homme qui marche and the Grande tête (fig. 2), and four versions of the Grande femme debout (fig. 3). Giacometti told David Sylvester that he made and immediately destroyed six additional versions of the Grande femme and as many as forty additional versions of the Homme qui marche. The plasters were completed in 1960, and shortly thereafter, the six figures and one of the two heads were cast in bronze. The artist was dissatisfied with the sculptures as a group and decided not to send them to Chase Manhattan, explaining later, ". . . the initial idea of the composition took second place . . . I had practically no feelings about how they should be grouped" (quoted in Alberto Giacometti, exh. cat., Royal Academy of Arts, London, 1996, p. 182). He was pleased with the seven works individually, however, and exhibited them during the early 1960s in various combinations (fig. 4). As in the case of the Femmes de Venise (Bonnefoy 374-381), the numbering of the Grandes femmes (I-IV) and the Hommes qui marchent (I-II) does not seem to reflect the order in which the figures were modeled.

In October 1965, Giacometti traveled to New York to attend the retrospective of his work at the Museum of Modern Art, and finally had occasion to see the Chase Manhattan Bank building in person. The plaza was still empty, and Giacometti was thrilled by the aesthetic possibilities that it presented. He now felt sure that the plaza demanded not a multi-figure composition but a single female figure--a colossal version of the Grande femme debout.

Upon his return to Paris, Giacometti ordered the construction of an enormous armature for the proposed sculpture. He died a few months later, however, before work could advance beyond this preparatory stage. Eventually, the Chase Manhattan Bank plaza was filled with a large aluminum sculpture by Jean Dubuffet, Four Trees. During the 1950's and 1960's, Giacometti linked the distinctive proportions of his figures to his effort to sculpt the human body not as he knew it to be but as he actually saw it--that is, at a distance. A figure viewed from afar, he explained, appears pronouncedly thin, and as a consequence relatively tall; he criticized both Rodin and Houdon for sculpting life-size figures, explaining, "The works that I find the most true to reality are those that are considered the least . . ." (quoted in Matter, op. cit., p. 211). Giacometti dated his awareness of distance as a pre-condition of perception to a day in 1945:

That day, reality took on a completely new value for me; it became the unknown, but an enchanted unknown. From that day on, because I had realized the difference between my way of seeing in the street and the way things are seen in photography and film--I wanted to represent what I saw. Only from 1946 have I been able to perceive the distance that allows people to appear as they really are and not in their natural size (quoted in D. Honisch, "Scale in Giacometti's Sculpture", in Schneider, op. cit., p. 65).

Paradoxically, the illusion of distance which governs works like the Grandes femmes coexists with an inescapable sense of materiality. The disproportionately large feet and weighty base of the present piece anchor it firmly to the ground, and its craggy, well-worked skin lends it an aspect of tactile proximity--like a surface seen from very close up. A similar contradiction is evident in the way that the nearly featureless face of the figure and her rigidly frontal pose (like that of an ancient kore) speak to her remoteness and inaccessibility, while her protuberant breasts and rounded hips endow her with an element of frank eroticism. Whereas the impression of distance from the viewer provides the figure with its "totality", the impression of nearness produces its "reality", the two components combining to form what Reinhold Hohl describes as the artist's "subjective experience of the object".

As Dieter Honisch, writing about the Grandes femmes, has concluded:

The fact that his figures ran through his fingers, that their bodies disintegrated; the grey atmosphere of his studio; the dust out of which there slowly rose a vision of the intact totality of humanity and the dignity of all existence: these enabled Giacometti to express an awareness of life that was attuned to post-war sensibilities. The sense of personal exposure; the meaninglessness of individual existence and, in spite of that, its dignity; the unrelatedness of human beings, their isolation and their aimlessness; the inability to believe and to accept ideals; the desire to survive, to find one's place--all this is especially forcefully expressed in the figures created in connection with the group envisaged for the Chase Manhattan Bank Plaza . . . (ibid., p. 68).

Examples of the Grande femme debout are now housed in major museums, including the Houston Museum of Fine Arts (version I, cast 1/6) and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (version IV, cast 0/6).

(fig. 1) Alberto Giacometti, Homme qui marche I, 1960.

(Sale, Christie's, London, 28 November 1988, lot 59).

(fig. 2) Alberto Giacometti, Grande tête, 1960.

(Sale, Christie's, New York, 15 May 1990, lot 65).

(fig. 3) Grande femme debout IV outside Giacometti's studio in 1960.

(fig. 4) Giacometti with his sculptures at the Venice Biennale, 1962. (left to right: Homme qui marche I, Grande femme debout II, Grande tête, and Grande femme debout I).

title

Grande femme debout I

signed

Signed and numbered 'Alberto Giacometti 5/6' (on the left side of the base); inscribed with foundry mark 'Susse Fondeur Paris' (on the back of the base)

creator

Alberto Giacometti

dimensions

Height: 105½ in. (268 cm.)

literature

J. Dupin and E. Scheidegger, Alberto Giacometti, Paris, 1962, p. 291 (another cast illustrated).

P. Selz, Alberto Giacometti, New York, 1965, p. 71 (another cast illustrated, p. 70)

"Searching for the Kernel of Life", Newsweek, 14 June 1965, p. 946 (another cast illustrated).

D. Sylvester, Alberto Giacometti, London, 1965, no. 83 (another cast illustrated, pl. 33).

J. Leymarie, Alberto Giacometti, Paris, 1970, p. 153, no. 104 (another cast illustrated).

R. Hohl, Alberto Giacometti, Stuttgart, 1971, p. 309, no. 260 (another cast illustrated).

J. Dupin and M. Leiris, Alberto Giacometti, Paris, 1978, p. 192, no. 105 (another cast illustrated).

J. Lord, Giacometti: A Biography, New York, 1983, p. 418.

B. Lamarche-Vadel, Alberto Giacometti, Paris, 1984, p. 145, no. 208 (another cast illustrated).

H. and M. Matter, Alberto Giacometti, New York, 1987, p. 220 (another cast illustrated).

Y. Bonnefoy, Alberto Giacometti, A Biography of his Work, Paris, 1991, p. 408 (another cast illustrated, fig. 387).

ed. A. Schneider, Alberto Giacometti, Sculpture, Paintings, Drawings, Munich, 1994, fig. 121 (another cast illustrated).

provenance

Sidney Janis Gallery, New York.

Galerie Beyeler, Basel.

Ronald Feldman Fine Arts, Inc., New York.

Anon. sale, Christie's, New York, 14 November 1990, lot 37.


*Tenga en cuenta que el precio no se recalcula al valor actual, es el precio final real en el momento que fue vendido.

*Tenga en cuenta que el precio no se recalcula al valor actual, es el precio final real en el momento que fue vendido.


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