5. What is a head ?
The issue of the human head was the central subject of Giacometti’s research throughout his life, as well as the reason for his exclusion of the Surrealist group in 1935. In that year, the representation of a head, which seemed to be a common-or-garden subject, was, for him, far from being resolved. The head and, above all, the eyes are the core of the human being and of life, whose mystery fascinated him.
After the Head-Skull of 1934, developed after the death of his father Giovanni in 1933, his many different variations on heads show that the subject was inexhaustible, and all the more so if it was combined with the question of scale: for Giacometti, coming up with an exact rendering of his vision also meant providing the distance with which the subject had been looked at.
In the 1930s, the models for his research into the head were his brother, Diego, an English artist friend, Isabel (Delmer), and a professional model, Rita (Gueyfier). Glimpsed from afar in the Quartier Latin, Isabel was the subject of one his very earliest miniature figurines. After his return to Paris from Switzerland in 1945, Giacometti once again showed that monumentality was separate from size, by making small-format portraits of important personalities: the patron of the arts Marie-Laure de Noailles, the writer Simone de Beauvoir, whom he had met in 1941, and, at Aragon’s request, the Resistance hero Rol-Tanguy.