Alberto Giacometti was born in 1901 in Stampa, a small town in Italian-speaking Switzerland. He came from a family of artists, for his father was a well-known Impressionist painter, and his brother Diego, a sculptor and furniture maker. Giacometti enrolled in art school in Geneva in 1920, then made his way to Paris in 1922, setting up a studio with Diego.
AT FIRST A SURREALIST
In the 1920's, Giacometti was associated with the Surrealist group. He participated in their exhibitions, contributing objects with distinct sexual, symbolic and erotic overtones. By the mid-1930's, he separated himself from Surrealism and returned to figurative sculpture, working directly from the female model.
EXISTENTIALISM AND THE FIGURE
Before the invasion of France during World War II, Giacometti became a friend to Jean-Paul Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir. He was identified with the Existentialists, and his work associated with existential reality. He left Paris at the end of 1941, spending the remainder of the war years in Geneva, working from memories of his models while making very small figurative sculptures, some only one inch tall.
Back in his Parisian studio after the war, Giacometti began making the sculptures of slender proportions with highly agitated surfaces with which he is most closely identified. The women all stand, while the men seem to be walking, but they are all ambiguous representations, mysterious and unemotional. He remained in Paris in the same studio he had occupied since the 1920's until the end of his life.