Paris Post War: Art and Existentialism 1945-55

Every day during this exhibition at the Tate Gallery, the Independent is running a short extract from letters, reportage and diaries of the period.

'You cannot - who could have thought otherwise? - approach a work of art as a person, a living being, or as another natural phenomenon. A poem, a painting, a sculpture all require a certain, specific quality of consideration. But let us look at painting.

Although a face does not reveal itself that easily, it does not take too much effort to discover its meaning. I believe - sticking my neck out - I believe that it is important to isolate it. If my gaze allows it to escape from its surroundings, if my gaze (my attention) prevents this face from merging with the rest of the world, from spinning beyond itself into an infinity of ever vaguer meanings, if, on the contrary, a solitude is obtained in which my gaze cuts it off from the world, then what will flow into and fill that face - or person, or being, or phenomenon - will be its own, unique meaning. By which I mean that to know a face aesthetically you refuse to know it historically.'

From Alberto Giacometti's Studio by Jean Genet, first published by Editions Barbezat, 1958; translated 1991 by Charles Penwarden

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

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