In 1985 the Kupferstichkabinett managed to acquire a large part of Alberto Giacometti's body of prints, which spans more than 350 chalk lithographs and etchings. To coincide with the major exhibition 'Divided Heaven - The Collection 1945-1968 - New National Gallery', which also features Giacometti's bronze sculpture 'Thin Woman without Arms' (1958/1960), the Kupferstichkabinett now presents 20 master prints by the Swiss artist that were created between 1951 and 1965 in Paris and are now on display in an intimate, one-room show in the New National Gallery.
From the mid-1940s onwards, Giacometti attenuated and condensed his material to create a series of figures, standing or striding through space like wraiths, whose shape were akin to stelae. In 1948 the American artist Barnett Newman remarked of Giacometti: 'He made sculpture that looked as if it was made out of spit - new things with no form, no texture, but somehow filled; I take my hat off to him.'
His lithograph, on display here, 'Objets mobiles et muets' (Moving, Mute Objects) from 1952 looks back at, and recreates, the partially Surrealist language of forms of his Paris pre-war period. In Stanley William Hayter's 'Atelier 17' in Paris, Giacometti first practised the art of etching in 1933, a form he would later also apply in his illustrations for books by literary friends. He would later do the same with the chalk lithographic process, which he learned to master quite late in life, in 1951, at the suggestion of Aimé Maeght, a publisher and his art dealer in Paris. The prints in this particular medium were created in Fernand Mourlot's famous studio.
Giacometti's prints form a varied reflection of his life and his work as a sculptor. There are also certain correlations between them and the paintings he created (interiors, portraits and still-lifes), which have a strong graphic element to them and which became increasingly prominent in his oeuvre in 1950s. A key theme in these works is the spatial structure of the studio and all the tools, furniture and, of course, sculptures found in it. Added to this are the depictions of sitters also portrayed in his sculptures and paintings, such as Giacometti's wife, Annette, or his brother, Diego. Through his sketch-like use of line he gradually builds up the objects and subjects depicted - in a process analogous to modelling in sculpture.
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