Alberto Giacometti was born on 10th October 1901 in Borgonovo in Val Bregaglia to Giovanni, a neo-impressionist painter, and Annetta Stampa. His father introduced him to working in the atelier, his godfather (the painter Cuno Amiet) taught him the latest styles and techniques, and the other members of his family assisted with his artistic development by sitting for him as models. In 1916, during high school, he displayed total mastery of impressionist language in a portrait of his mother modeled with plastilina. He left high school and moved to Geneva to attend the School of Fine Arts. Following a trip to Venice and Rome in 1920, during which he developed a passion for the work of Tintoretto and Giotto, he resolved to recover the innocent gaze of man’s origins through primitive art and anthropology. In 1922 he moved to Paris to attend the courses of sculptor Antoine Bourdelle and partly experimented with the Cubist method.
In 1925 his brother Diego joined him in Paris and became his permanent assistant. Alberto shared sympathy for the surrealist movement with the Swiss artists he met in Paris and in 1927 began to display his first surrealist sculptures at the Salon des Tuileries.
Success was not long in coming and Alberto began to frequent artists such as Arp, Mirò, Ernst and Picasso and writers including Prévert, Aragon, Eluard, Bataille and Queneau. He became firm friends with Breton and wrote and drew for his magazine Le surréalisme au Service de la Révolution. But Giacometti felt the need to return to the idea of “absolute resemblance” and after his father’s death in 1933 shut himself off in a period of a renewed apprenticeship. From 1935 to 1940 he concentrated on the study of the human head, starting from the gaze, considered the seat of thoughts.
He also drew entire figures in an attempt to capture the identity of individual human beings with a single glance. In this period he met Picasso and Beckett and established a dialogue with Sartre which was to influence the work of both.
He spent the Second World War years in Geneva. In 1946 he returned to Paris and met up again with his brother Diego, beginning a new artistic phase in which his statues became stretched out, their limbs elongated in a space that contained and complemented them. In 1962 he received the Grand Prize for sculpture at the Venice Biennial. In his later years, he worked frenetically and displayed his work at a sequence of large exhibitions throughout Europe. Although seriously ill, he went to New York in 1965 for his exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art. As his last work, he prepared the text for the book Paris sans fin, a sequence of 150 lithographs containing memories of all the places where he had lived. He died on 11 January 1966 and is buried in Borgonovo, close to his parents.