Alberto Giacometti (1901 Borgonovo - 1966 Coire)
Pen and brown ink on paper ; 29.5 x 21 cm
Paris, Louis Clayeux collection ; Greenwich/Munich, Walter and Molly Bareiss collection ; New York, Eckman Gallery ; Zurich, Hauser and Wirth gallery ; Cologne, Lempertz, 31st May 2011 ; Paris, Le Polyptyque collection ; Paris, private collection.
Alberto Giacometti (Paris, Musée d'Art Moderne de la Ville, 1991-1992).
Luigi Carluccio, Alberto Giacometti, Le Copie del passato, Turin, 1967 ; Suzanne Pagé, Alberto Giacometti, Paris, 1991, n° 306 ; Alberto Giacometti, Les Copies du Passé, Paris, 2012, n° 83, p. 206 (reproduced p. 207).
As a painter and sculptor, Alberto Giacometti attached a great importance to copying works of art "from the past" through drawing. This was how he had learned to draw when he was very young, in his father's studio in Stampa. He had discovered them in books and would continue, during his whole life, to study them. But more than that, as he explained in an interview with Pierre Schneider in 1962, it was a matter of "copying in order to see better", copying works of art like a study from nature, an exercise and an inspiration at the same time.
Many of the copies of works of art found in his notebooks, the margins of art books in his library or on fly sheets, are relatively literal, leaving only a trace of the artist's subjectivity. But a series of drawings of particular quality, more inspired than copied, was collected in a book in homage to the inspiration that he had found in the old masters : "Le Copie del passato" (The Copies of the Past).
A first project on the same subject, conceived with Louis Aragon and Albert Skira in the 1940s, was not completed. Giacometti was particularly keen to achieve it, this work would take up the last six years of his life. In an interview with Swiss radio in 1965, he explained that "this book interests (him) above all, because it allows him to make an evaluation of his past". It was not published until the artist's death, in an Italian edition in 1967 and a German one the following year.
This drawing is one of the 144 originals and, like nineteen others in the series, belonged to Louis Clayeux, director of the Galerie Maeght from 1948 to 1964, a long-time friend of the artist, with whom he had conceived the book. The Giacometti Foundation, which recognized this drawing, took over the project for a French edition.
In homage to the Flemish Primitives, Giacometti chose to interpret - not unrelated to his own personality - the Hermits section of the great altarpiece of the Adoration of the Mystic Lamb by the Van Eyck brothers (still in the Cathedral of St. Bavo in Ghent). The long, bearded and robed figures of the altarpiece, almost monochrome and already sculptural, have become, under his pen, creatures of Giacometti. The magic of interpretation is at work, and it is Giacometti's singular vision that operates here above the original motif.