Alberto Giacometti (1961)
by Henri Cartier-Bresson
Invisible Object (1934)
by Peter Y. Chou
Invisible Object (1934)
by Alberto Giacometti
|On January 10, 2013, my friend Steve Gould emailed me a photo from his iPhone Giacometti's Invisible Object (Hands Holding the Void) 1934 bronze. Steve had sent me an earlier image of Giacometti's Walking Man on a Swiss 100 francs banknote (April 18, 2012). It inspired the poem "Mountain of Bliss". I've never seen this Giacometti sculpture before. When searching in Google Images "Giacometti + Invisible Object" and "Giacometti sculptures" nothing could be found. While at the Mountain View Library on Sunday, February 9, I found four Giacometti books containing this Invisible Object sculpture. I've typed everything on Invisible Object or Hands Holding the Void from these books for reference. The photos of Giacometti's sculptures from these books were scanned, colored duotone in Photoshop, and placed near the texts. Now, I'm pondering what is the object she's holding?|
Giacomett: A Biography|
by James Lord
Farrar, Straus, Giroux, NY, 1985
pp. 150-153 (photo p. 145)
Invisible Object or Hands Holding the Void (1934)
The years 1930, 1931, and 1932 had been richly productive, establishing Giacometti as the most authentic Surrealist sculptor. The first six months of 1933 indicate a weakening of the artist's commitment to Surrealism; and in 1934 he executed but a single sculpture which can be described as Surrealist. So the effective end of Alberto's Surrealist period appears to have come in June 1933. More than a year would pass, though, before a confrontation confirmed what had, in fact, already taken place.
Giacometti experienced acute difficulties while executing this sculpture. They were personal as well as aesthetic, symptomatc of the work's own character as well as of its importance for his life and career. The greatest difficulty, as one might expect, concerned the precise placement of the hands in relation to each other, since the significance of the whole sculpture stems from the evocative power of this relation. The difficulty was compounded by the fact that for some years the need the compulsion to discover a perfect placement for various objects in relation to each other had become increasingly pronounced. Nor did this apply solely to elements used in the making of sculpture. For example, there had been a time when Alberto spent sleepless nights because he could no longer decide exactly how to place his shoes and socks after taking them off. This passion for placement extended also to things of less obvious ritual importance.
"In my room," he explained, "I found myself unable to do anything for days on end because I could not discover the exact and satisfying arrangement of the objects on my table. On it, for example, there was a pack of cigarettes, a pencil, a saucer, a pad of paper, a box, etc. The shapes, colors, and volumes of these objects maintined between themselves intimate and precise plastic relations which determined for each one its sole proper placement. The search for this order, either by reflection or by trial and error, was a veritable torment for me. So long as I had not found it, I was as if paralysed, unable even to leave my room to keep an appointment. Thus, I would move the box to the left side of the table, turn the pad of paper slightly, place the pack of cigarettes at an angle, etc., but that didn't work. I would change the position of the box and it seemed to me that that was better, but then the pad was too near the center. I would push it away, but the saucer all alone became too important. I moved the pencil closer. Was I free? No, for in this imperfect equilibrium there persisted an element of approximation which was intolerable to me. So I would always and tirelessly start over again and spend interminable hours on this disappointing task."
Surrealism had helped Alberto to make personal and aesthetic progress. When it was done, it was done. His nature was too eager, too intransigent to accept the mere continuity of achievement, however distinguished. He grew impatient of the constraints and compromises, hypocrisies, recriminations, jealousies, and conflicting ambitons common to any utopian movement. A parting of the ways had become inevitable. Even to Giacometti, however, the actual even was difficult to contemplate. Life for him had an ever-renewed but never-ending continuity. No part, no person could be relinquished without diminishing the whole. Almost all of his friends were members of the Surrealist movement. In addition to Breton, they were Max Ernst, Miró, Yves Tanguy, Eluard, and René Crevel to name only the most notable.
Giacometti: A Biography in Pictures
by Reinhold Hohl
Verlag Gerd Hatje, Germany, 1998
"Invisible Object" (1934), bronze, 154 cm
(photo p. 79) (early cast with bird)
That sculpture "Invisible Object", which Breton preferred to all the rest, upset my whole life again. I was satisfied with her hands and her head because they were just as I intended them. But I wasn't satisfied in the least with the legs, the body, or the breast. They seemed too academic, too conventional. That made me want to work from life again.
by Reinhold Hohl
Harry N. Abrams, NY, 1971
pp. 104, 175, 251, 273 (photo p. 70)
"Invisible Object" (1934), bronze, 60-1/4"
1934 The ambiguous title of Giacometti's best piece of the year was in itself a rebuff to the Surrealists' cult of the object: Invisible Object or Hands Holding the Void. André Breton tried to win Giacometti back to the fold by devoting a long essay to the story of this sculpture's genesis, but in addition to the misunderstandings it contains, it reveals not a little jealousy:
André Breton: The state of expectation is wonderful, no matter whether the expected arrives or not. That was the subject of a long chat I had with my friend Alberto Giacometti whose sensibility is to my way of thinking unchallenged one evening and the evening before, when a beautiful Saturday last month [April, 1934] induced us to walk out to Saint-Ouen to the flea market... Giacometti was working on a female figure [Invisible Object] which, although it had occurred to him a short time before in its finished state and took form in plaster within a few hours, still went through a few transformations in the course of work... The length of the arms, which depended on the position of the hands before the breast, and the features of the face, were still quite uncertain... Looking at that lovable creature with its restrained directness and twin character of bad conscience and thankfulness had unsettled me, and its very tenderness so long as all of this had not yet found its final formulation led me to condemn every female influence on Giacometti as dangerous. (p. 251)
That sculpture, Invisible Object, which Breton preferred to all the rest, upset my whole life again. I was satisfied with her hands and her head because they were just as I had intended them. But I wasn't satisfied in the least with the legs, the body, or the breast. They seemed too academic, too conventional. That made me want to work from life again.
As late as 1938, the Invisible Object had been shown at the international Surrealist exhibition in the Galerie Beaux-Arts in Paris, but in the Dictionary of Surrealism which served as its catalogue, Breton wrote under the reference "Giacometti" only: "Former Surrealist sculptor". On the whole, the year 1934, which marked the halfway point of Giacometti's life, was one of reflection and decision-making. (p. 273)
In Giacometti's Studio
by Michael Peppiatt
Yale University Press,
New Haven, CT, 2010
pp. 75-78 (photo p. 77)
find the exact and satisfying arrangement of the objects on my table. On it, for example,
there was a packet of cigarettes, a pencil, a saucer, a pad of paper, a box, etc. The shapes,
colours and volumes of these objects maintined between themselves, intimate and precise plastic
relations which determined for each one its sole proper placement. The search for this order,
either by reflection or by trial and error, was a veritable torment for me. So long as I had
not found it, I was as if paralysed, unable even to leave my room to keep an appointment.
In this there is no Surrealistic posturing, no stranger-than-thou antics of the kind that the sublimely gifted, sublimely silly Dali indulged in mostly to the delighted gratification of his fellow Surrealist group members. Giacometti was clearly a genuine oddball, of an authenticity that you can't make up. He was not going to wear a lobster on his head or eat nothing but green food and drink liquers of the same colour (as Breton once decreed); as essentially a gentleman, and a gentle man, he would have demurred at slapping a hostile critic, attacking another artist viciously in print or embarrassing a lady. One of Giacometti's most unusual traits is that he was as strictly ethical as he was boundlessly inventive. But deep down one thing he was not was a clown, or certainly not somebody else's clown. For a time, he was ready to do Breton's and the general party line's bidding. As he admitted, he wanted to win in the Paris art stakes; he wanted to be successful. Giovanni, his father, had watched his ascent with misgiving, and in his careful, inevitably irritating parental way, he had let Alberto know; and no doublt his stern, strait-laced mother Annetta, supported by a few neighbouring soothsayers in Stampa, had her ancestral doubts. Alberto wanted to prove them all wrong. He was hobnobbing not only with the Noailles but also with Jean Cocteau, Christian Bérard and Jean-Michel Frank the three prodigiously gifted gays who ruled over the Parisian artistico-social scene; he had been the object of prestigious shows, and his work, whether sculptural or decorative had found its way into some of the top collections. He wrote and was written about.
Alberto Giacometti on the Web:
Which Here Is The List Of Sculptures Alberto Giacometti Promised You
| © Peter Y. Chou,
P.O. Box 390707, Mountain View, CA 94039