Figure I, (Caroline)

Fondation Giacometti -  Figure I, (Caroline)


At the end of 1961, Alberto Giacometti started to work on the piece Figure I, Caroline. The photographer Paul Almasy visited the artist’s studio at that time to illustrate an article that was published in the magazine Schweizer Illustrierte Zeitung on the 15th January 1962. He photographed Alberto Giacometti working in his studio, surrounded by his sculptures and paintings. On his left, two paintings in progress are placed on the floor, one the painting representing Caroline.

During 1962, Annette, the artist’s wife, took photographs of the evolution of certain pieces in the inner courtyard of the studio, among them the painting of Caroline. In the same year, the photographer Ernst Scheidegger took photos of the painting placed on the floor in the studio. The painting also figures in one of the drawings the artist made for the series Paris sans fin (published posthumously in 1969). All those testimonies illustrate the various phases of the artist’s work and the continual transformations carried out on the painting: the dress worn by Caroline changes, her hairstyle is reduced in volume and the position of her hands is modified.

Between 1962 and 1963, Giacometti chose, from among his latest works, several paintings of Caroline, among them this one, for his personal exhibition at the Venice Biennial as well as for his large retrospective at Zurich’s Kunsthaus. The painting is finished by then, but the photos of the hanging show a painting not signed nor dated. At that time, the painting was 100 cm high and 81 cm wide and it bore large white borders on the sides.

After the closing of the Zurich exhibition, the piece was sold in February 1963 to the Pierre Matisse Gallery in New York, where it was once more photographed by Eric Pollitzer before it was stored away. In April 1963, the artist, coming out of the clinic where he had undergone a big operation, asked the gallery owner to send back the piece to be signed and dated.

The dimensions of the piece have been altered, and it has lost 5 centimetres of white border on each side. The painting was therefore presented signed, dated and reduced in its width at the touring exhibition in the United States in 1965-1966 (New York’s Museum of Modern Art, the Art Institute of Chicago, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art and the San Francisco Museum of Art). The circumstances surrounding that reduction in size are not known. The position of the signature in the right angle leads us to think that it is the artist himself who has carried out that change. How

Serena Bucalo
Research Assistant, Paintings

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2. 1961/1962

This photograph, taken by Annette Giacometti during the making of the painting, shows a state close to that photographed by Almasy.

The painting has a rather different aspect to today’s version. The figure still seems sketched; the body is better defined around the head and the shoulders, a lot less at the arms and the stomach, drawn with more simplicity. The arms, longer before, ended with joined hands.
Caroline is dressed in a sleeveless dress with a ‘v’ neck.

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3. 1961/1962

Annette Giacometti photographed here a new stage of the painting.
The artist has transformed the dress, reducing the ‘v’ neck with strokes of grey, widened the bun and reinforced the features of the face.

Giacometti has also altered the background. A long diagonal black stroke goes down from the top left corner to the bottom and two strokes of black paint appear on the right between the frame and the model’s left arm.

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4. 1961/1962

At that time, Alberto Giacometti also worked on the collection Paris sans fin, published after his death by the editor Tériade. In one of the drawings representing the studio, Caroline’s painting appears, placed on the floor next to a stool.

In the painting, the position of the model, her posture with her arms crossed and placed at her waist, helps us identify the piece.

[High stool and painting in the studio] for Paris sans fin
Lithographic pencil, 4/52 (not clear) x 32.5 cm

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7. 1963

This photograph, taken in 1963 after the arrival of the painting in New York, allows us to see in detail its state during the Venice and Zurich exhibitions.
From a pictorial point of view, the painting is now completed, with its black framing and its large grey strokes all around the figure. Caroline’s face and body are much more detailed. The highlights of white paint accentuate the sculptural character of the face. The volume of the bun is reduced. The traces of the drawing underneath are still visible at the shoulders and the forearms.

Large white borders marked with splashings frame the composition on both sides. The painting is neither signed nor dated.

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