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

Fondation Giacometti -  Tête noire4

1. 1957

This photograph was taken during a sitting in Alberto Giacometti’s Parisian studio. The painting we see is still in progress.

The model is represented seated, his hands joined and placed on his lap. From the very beginning, the head is the most worked part of the model, where the colour, in its various tones of grey, is most concentrated, thick and dark. Giacometti drew Yanaihara’s silhouette and the strokes on the sides in black to indicate the space. In broad brushstrokes, he coloured in the figure’s shoulders and the space around it.

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2. 1957

The painting is now completed, signed and dated with the artist’s brush.

Since the photo taken by Yanaihara in the studio, the look of the work has changed considerably.
The figure has been reduced in its height; the shoulders have been lowered, the arms shortened, a dark “halo” around the model has been used to mask the modifications and to conceal the previous drawing.

The bottom part of the painting remains deliberately sketched, the attention of the artist focusing still on the model’s face.

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4. 1958-1962

Between 1958 and 1962, Alberto Giacometti went back on his work and decided to modify it completely. He radically changed the subject represented by substituting Yanaihara for one of his characteristic “black heads”.

The figure, much more imposing, occupies a major surface compared to the previous model. Yanaihara’s silhouette is still visible beneath the bust of the new portrait, just below the neck.

The frame remains the same as for Yanaihara, at times covered with brown brushstrokes used to colour in the space around the figure.

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