8. Encounters

Fondation Giacometti -  8. Encounters

Alberto Giacometti, Jean-Paul Sartre Leaning on his Elbow, circa 1949, pencil reworked with eraser on paper, 29,3 x 22,5 cm, coll.Fondation Giacometti, Paris.
© Succession Giacometti (Fondation Giacometti, Paris et ADAGP, Paris)

Giacometti met philosopher Jean-Paul Startre in 1941, who is the author of two essential essays about the artist’s work, published in 1948 and 1954, dealing with the issue of perception.

Just as significant were his conversations with Sartre’s Japanese translator, Isaku Yanaihara, a professor of philosophy, who posed for Giacometti between 1956 to 1961. In 1948, keen to honour French intellectuals and artists, the French state commissioned Giacometti to design a medal dedicated to Jean-Paul Sartre; the medal was never actually made, but there are drawings for it.

Between 1951 and his death, Giacometti produced a series of “dark heads”, which, together with some anonymous sculpted heads, lent substance to the “generic” man concept, which Sartre would sum up, in 1964, in his novel Les mots, with the sentence: “A whole man, made of all men, worth all of them, and any one of them worth him”. This was Giacometti’s quintessential contribution to the history of the portrait in the 20th century.

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