Alberto Giacometti, Alberto Giacometti travaillant dans son atelier au buste de Yanaihara, septembre 1960, coll.Fondation Giacometti, Paris.
© Succession Giacometti (Fondation Giacometti, Paris et ADAGP, Paris)

Alberto Giacometti

Biographical timeline

Alberto Giacometti (1901-1966)

From 16 Jul 1901 To 18 Jan 1906

1901

10 October: birth of Alberto Giacometti in Borgonovo, a small village in the Val Bregaglia region of Switzerland, near the Italian border. The eldest child of Swiss Impressionist painter and engraver Giovanni Giacometti (1868-1933) and Annetta Stampa (1871-1964), he later has two brothers, Diego (1902-1985) and Bruno (born 1907), and a sister, Ottilia (1904-1937). The Swiss painters Cuno Amiet and Ferdinand Hodler are Alberto and Bruno’s godfathers. 

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1906

Moves to Stampa, two kilometres from Borgonovo, where Giovanni sets up a studio.

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1910

The family buys a holiday home in Maloja, on the banks of Lake Sils, where Giovanni installs another studio.

Fondation Giacometti -  1914-1915

1914-1915

First sculpted portrait of his brother Diego.
First oil painting: Still Life with Apples.

1915 – 1919

While attending the Schiers Protestant school near Coire, he produces his first wood engravings, including a portrait of his friend Lucas Lichtenhan. He also creates sculpted or painted busts of his classmates Simon Bérard and Jean Delorme.

1919

Gives up school and enrols at the École des Beaux-Arts in Geneva and then at the École des Arts et Métiers.

Fondation Giacometti -  1920

1920

Travels to Venice with his father, a guest of the Biennale.
Stays in Rome for almost a year and visits Assisi, Florence and Naples.

1922

Arrives in Paris in January to study sculpture. 
Attends Bourdelle’s classes on an irregular basis, at the Académie de la Grande Chaumière, until 1926.

1925

Exhibits at the Salon des Tuileries for the first time.

1926

1 December: moves into the studio at 46 rue Hippolyte-Maindron.

Fondation Giacometti -  1927

1927

Shows two works at the Salon des Tuileries: The Couple and Spoon Woman.

1929

Through Jeanne Bucher, who exhibits Gazing Head in her gallery, he meets Jean Cocteau, the Noailles and André Masson and is introduced into the Surrealist circle. The critics Christian Zervos and Carl Einstein become ardent supporters of his work.

Signs a one-year contract with the Galerie Pierre, directed by Pierre Loeb. First bronze casts of his works. First monographic review of his work by Michel Leiris in the journal Documents.

Fondation Giacometti -  1930

1930

His brother Diego joins him permanently in Paris.
Begins producing decorative art objects for designers, including Jean-Michel Frank.

1931

Joins André Breton’s Surrealist group and contributes to its events, publications and exhibitions.

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1932

First solo exhibition in Paris, Pierre Colle Gallery.

1933

First print for the illustration of a book: Les Pieds dans le plat, by René Crevel.
Death of his father on June 26th. Spends several months in Switzerland until 1934 to settle the estate of his father.

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1934

Best man at André Breton and Jacqueline Lamba’s wedding in August. Creates four prints to illustrate the collection of poems written by Breton to celebrate the occasion, L’Air de l’eau.
First solo exhibition in New York in December, at the Julien Levy Gallery. 

Fondation Giacometti -  1935

1935

14 February: expelled from Surrealist group.
In March, launch of Jean-Michel Frank’s boutique in the rue du faubourg Saint-Honoré. Giacometti is one of his leading creators.
From 1935 to 1940 takes part in a large number of group exhibitions in various countries, with his Surrealist works, while exploring a personal avenue of research into heads.
Frequents Balthus, Gruber, Tal Coat and the group gravitating around the journal Abstraction-Création.

Fondation Giacometti -  1936

1936

Chooses Pierre Matisse to represent him in the United States. His first museum piece, The Palace at 4 A.M., enters the collections of the Museum of Modern Art in New York.

Fondation Giacometti -  1937

1937

10 October: his sister Ottilia dies in Geneva while giving birth to his only nephew, Silvio, who poses for him during the war.

Fondation Giacometti -  1940

1940

Joins the exodus by bicycle with his brother but turns round in Gien and returns to Paris.
Meets Simone de Beauvoir and Jean-Paul Sartre. 
Leaves for Switzerland in December.

Fondation Giacometti -  1942-1945

1942-1945

Remains in Switzerland for the rest of the war, dividing his time between Geneva, Stampa and Maloja. Renews his friendship with the publisher Albert Skira and meets his future wife and one of his favourite models, Annette Arm (1923-1993).

1945

September : Returns to Paris and his studio, which has remained intact thanks to Diego. 
Becomes involved once more in the Paris literary scene.

Fondation Giacometti -  1946

1946

Carries out a series of portraits of leading figures in the world of the arts and letters, including Marie-Laure de Noailles and Simone de Beauvoir, together with a head of the Resistance hero Rol-Tanguy, at Aragon’s request.
Works on the illustrations for Georges Bataille’s Histoire de rats, published in 1947.

1947

Annette Arm moves into the studio at 46 rue Hippolyte-Maindron.
Prepares intensely for his New York exhibition.

1948

In January he holds his first solo exhibition of new works since 1934, at the Pierre Matisse Gallery in New York. 
Sartre writes the preface to the catalogue. 
The gallery holds further solo exhibitions in 1950, 1958, 1961 and 1964.
First monographic review in the American press, in Harper’s Bazaar, featuring photographs by Brassaï.

Fondation Giacometti -  1949

1949

The Tate Gallery in London purchases Man Pointing, the first European museum to acquire one of his works.
Produces his first lithograph, Portrait de Tristan Tzara, for the frontispiece of Phases.
19 July: marries Annette Arm.
Project for a medal to Jean-Paul Sartre.

1951

First exhibition at the Galerie Maeght in Paris. 
More exhibitions follow in 1954, 1957 and 1961. To mark the event, he creates the first lithographic plates to be published by Maeght, for the journal Derrière le miroir. Others follow in 1954 and every year from 1957 to 1961, either for the journal or as numbered prints.
Francis Ponge devotes a significant essay to him in the magazine Cahiers d’art, illustrated with photographs by Ernst Scheidegger.
The musée de Grenoble purchases The Cage, his first work to enter France’s public collections.
Charles de Noailles donates the Surrealist Table to the Musée national d’art moderne, his first work to feature in the State collections.

Fondation Giacometti -  1954

1954

First monographic exhibition in a museum, in Santa Barbara, California.
Jean Genet starts posing for him and continues until 1957.
Jean-Paul Sartre devotes a second essay to him, published in Derrière le miroir.
Project for a medal to Henri Matisse.

1955

First retrospective exhibitions in museums in New York, London, and Germany.
Works closely, from then until his death, with writers and poets such as René Char, Jean Genet, André du Bouchet, Paul Eluard, Jacques Dupin, Olivier Larronde, Lena Leclercq and Edith Boissonas, illustrating their books or poems with drawings or prints. Also illustrates books posthumously by Honoré de Balzac, Arthur Rimbaud, Miguel de Cervantès, Pierre Reverdy and René Crevel.

Fondation Giacometti -  1956

1956

Exhibits in the French Pavilion at the Venice Biennale and at the Bern Kunsthalle.
In October Isaku Yanaihara, a professor of French philosophy at Osaka University (Japan), begins posing for him. He returns in Summer 1957, 1959, 1960 and 1961.

1957

Jean Genet writes L’Atelier d’Alberto Giacometti, which appears in the journal Derrière le miroir and then as a book, illustrated in 1963 with photographs taken by Ernst Scheidegger.

Fondation Giacometti -  1958

1958

First monographic exhibition in Tokyo, Japan, at the Minami Gallery.
A selection of his writings is published for the first time, by Ernst Scheidegger in Zurich.
Meets Caroline (born 1938) who poses for him from 1960 to 1965.

1959

Undertakes to complete the book Paris sans fin, for which he provides both the texts and illustrations. 
Chosen to take part in the competition for a monumental sculpture on the Chase Manhattan Bank Plaza in New York, which absorbs him until Spring 1960.

1961

Publication of Michel Leiris’ book on his attempted suicide (29 May 1957), Vivantes cendres, innommées, featuring 52 etchings.
Wins first prize at the Pittsburgh International Exhibition, organised by the Carnegie Institute.
8 June: appears on front cover of French magazine L’Express.

Fondation Giacometti -  1962

1962

Guest artist at the Venice Biennale with a solo exhibition, he wins the Grand Prize for Sculpture.
Major retrospective exhibition at the Kunsthaus in Zurich.

1963

In February he undergoes operation for stomach cancer. 
The operation is a success.

1964

25 January: death of his mother.
In January, receives the Guggenheim International Award for Painting from the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York.
28 July: inauguration of the Giacometti courtyard and gallery at the Marguerite and Aimé Maeght Foundation in Saint-Paul de Vence. Giacometti donates a series of sculptures to the Foundation.
The photographer Eli Lotar starts posing for a series of busts, which continue into 1965.

Fondation Giacometti -  1965

1965

Three retrospective exhibitions take place, in London (Tate Gallery), New York (Museum of Modern Art) and Humlebaek, Denmark (Louisiana Museum). 
Takes an active part in preparing the London exhibition, curated by David Sylvester.
Compiles the text for his book on copies while crossing the Atlantic on an ocean liner.
In June, appears on front cover of The New York Times Magazine.
Receives the National Arts Award from the French Ministry for Cultural Affairs.
16 December: the Alberto Giacometti-Stiftung is created in Zurich, having bought part of the collection owned by G. David Thompson, who was creating a museum in Pittsburgh to include a room devoted to the artist’s works.

1966

He dies  of cardiac exhaustion at Coire Hospital in Switzerland on 11 January, while undergoing a series of routine examinations. 
He is buried in Borgonovo cemetery on 15 January.

Fondation Giacometti -  1969

1969

The first retrospective exhibition of his works in France is held at the Orangerie des Tuileries.
Tériade publishes Paris sans fin, which includes 150 lithographs taken from the selection drawn up by Giacometti himself in preparation for the book.

1993

Death of Annette Giacometti on 19 September. She is buried in Père Lachaise cemetery in Paris.

To search for a work, consult the Alberto Giacometti Database