Paris Post War: Art and Existentialism 1945-55

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The Independent Online
Finally, in order to accomplish at least a little, I began to work from memory, but this mainly to know what I had gotten out of all this work. (During all these years I drew and painted a little, and almost always from life.)

But wanting to create from memory what I had seen, to my terror the sculptures became smaller and smaller, they had a likeness only when they were small, yet their dimensions revolted me, and tirelessly I began again, only to end several months later at the same point.

A large figure seemed to me false and a small one equally unbearable, and then often they became so tiny that with one touch of my knife they disappeared into dust. But head and figures seemed to me to have a bit of truth only when small.

All this changed a little in 1945 through drawing.

This led me to want to make larger figures, but then to my surprise, they achieved a likeness only when tall and slender.

And this is almost where I am today, no, where I still was yesterday, and realise right now that if I can draw ancient sculptures with ease, I could draw those I made during these last years only with

difficulty; perhaps if I could draw them it would no longer be necessary to create them in space, but I am not sure about this.

From 'Letter to Pierre Matisse, 1947' in Alberto Giacometti, translated with an introduction by Peter Selz (The Museum of Modern Art, New York) 1965

Paris Post War: Art and Existentialism 1945-55 at the Tate Gallery until 5 September.