Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Giacometti @ the MNBAQ

Recently I travelled to Quebec City, to the Musée National des Beaux-Arts du Québec, to see the exhibition on Alberto Giacometti, (1901 - 1966).

The museum's website has an excellent description of the show, which includes more than 230 objects, including 110 sculptures and 50 paintings. An informative biographical timeline greets the visitor at the entrance, and detailed explanations posted on the wall guide us through the various periods of Giacometti's art. Visitors are offered tablet guides with audio and supplementary images.

The earliest work we see is a painted self-portrait of Giacometti. Before the age of 30 he had moved from painting to sculpture. The influence of African and Egyptian art is evident in Giacometti's early sculpture, done in a Cubist style, but within a few years one can see him working with Surrealist themes.

In the 1930's, Giacometti experienced a crisis following the death of his father that led him to reject Surrealism and return to representational work. This shift resulted in his expulsion from his group of artist friends, and he began to associate with existentialists, including Jean-Paul Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir.

Scale was something that Giacometti experimented with during the 1940's. One of his full figures measures less than an inch tall. He explained that by working very small, it was as though his subject was far away, and only the most salient features of face and posture were observable. In other words, he was getting to the subject's essence.

These figures are about 14 inches tall.

This head is larger than life size.

The artist's male figures are always in motion,
the female figures always stationary.
This "Walking Man" is about life size,
and the woman is larger-than-life.

Giacometti did return to painting, especially portraiture. He worked exclusively with a neutral palette, and was known to spend months on a single subject.

This illuminating survey of Giacometti's life work continues at the Musée until May 13, 2018. It will be followed by a solo show of the French Impressionist Berthe Morisot, June 21, 2018 - September 23. I'm hoping to see that show, and will time my visit to coincide with another show at the MNBAQ, Fait Main / Hand Made, which will explore the contemporary trend of art based on artisanal processes and a mastery of the material. This second show will run from June 14 - September 3.

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