Dark Head, 1957

Fondation Giacometti -  Dark Head, 1957

The Japanese philosopher Isaku Yanaihara (1918-1989) regularly sat for Alberto Giacometti. Having come to France in 1954 to study philosophy at the Sorbonne, he met the artist for the first time in November 1955 for an interview. He quickly became the model for several portraits in 1956, then during his stays in 1957, 1959, 1960 and 1961.
This work was made on his second stay, between August and September 1957. On that occasion, Yanaihara took a photo of Giacometti’s studio and paintings, providing us with an interesting photographic documentation of the artist’s working process.

Yanaihara took a photo of his portrait in Alberto Giacometti’s studio, determining the first stages of the work. The original drawing is outlined in black on the canvas and the first vigorous strokes are made around the head and shoulders of the model.

The piece was completed before the end of 1957. Giacometti dated and signed it. In accordance with his habit, the artist modified the original drawing considerably. In relation to the painting captured in the photo by Yanaihara, the model occupies less place in the piece, the head and shoulders are lowered and the arms shortened.

It was in that specific state that the work was exhibited at the Pierre Matisse Gallery in New York, a year after its completion, in 1958.

Between 1958 and 1962, Alberto Giacometti took up Yanaihara’s painting once more and covered his first model with a totally new figure. The character represented has not been identified. Similar to his characteristic “black heads”, the figure is worked on a lot around the head, and on the other hand much less at the bust, through which one still sees Yanaihara’s portrait.
It is this version, the existing one, that was presented by Giacometti at the Venice Biennial and at the retrospective at Zurich’s Kunsthaus between 1962 and 1963.

by Serena Bucalo
Research Assistant, Paintings

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