Alberto Giacometti (1901-1966)
Alberto Giacometti (1901-1966)

Nature morte aux fleurs

Alberto Giacometti (1901-1966)
Nature morte aux fleurs
signed 'Alberto Giacometti' (lower right)
oil on board laid down on cradled panel
16 x 12 7/8 in. (40.6 x 32.7 cm.)
Painted in 1953
Galerie Maeght, Paris (by 1955).
Galleria D'Arte Galatea.
Private collection, Italy.
B.C. Holland, Chicago.
Acquired from the above by the present owner, circa 1985.
New York, The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, Alberto Giacometti, June-July 1955.
Venice, XXXI Biennale Internazionale d'Arte di Venezia, June-October 1962, no. 262.


The Comité Giacometti has confirmed the authenticity of this work. It will be included in the catalogue raisonné being prepared by the Foundation Alberto and Annette Giacometti.

According to his biographer James Lord, Giacometti acknowledged in retrospect that he had "spent the war years meditating on Cézanne's ambitions and achievements" (in Giacometti: A Biography, New York, 1983, p. 229). Already a legendary figure when Giacometti first arrived in Paris in 1922, "Papa" Cézanne had famously declared that he would astonish the city with an apple. Giacometti's two apples in Still life with flowers reveal his profound link to Cézanne, who "had taught him that only absolute fidelity to psychic and visual experience, however surprising or unpredictable, can mark an artistic work with integrity" (ibid., p. 104). "Art interests me very much," Giacometti once remarked, and in a Cézannian turn of phrase he added, "but truth interests me infinitely more" (quoted in J. Lord, "The Vision of Alberto Giacometti," Alberto Giacometti: Plastiken, Gemälde, Zeichnungen, exh. cat., Wilhelm-Lehmbruck-Museum, Duisburg, 1977, p. 40).

When Giacometti resumed painting in 1945 after a seven-year hiatus, his real subject was the three dimensions of space, colorless and insubstantial, that asserted its presence between and around the objects it contained. The sundry objects that demarcate the space of this painting facilitate the experience of sensation, of appearances that endure and disperse in the act of observation. This oil painting has the quality of drawing on canvas; the thick lines are both constructive and non-representational, indicating, as Reinhold Hohl has noted, "the act of observing objects rather than defining outlines" (in Alberto Giacometti :A Retrospective Exhibition, exh. cat., The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, 1974, p. 36). To work from nature is to work from memory, Giacometti suggests, and here the dark lines "may stand for the traces of the artist's eye, swiftly and incessantly moving around the composition from one object to another, measuring the distance between them" (ibid., pp. 35-6). The increasingly ubiquitous gray background (see lot 4) suggests not atmospheric moodiness but the shapes and lights of the objects, active within a framework of conceptual lines that contrasts with the glowing yellow-orange of the apples and flowers.

The tension between form and space in these objects culled from his atelier reflects the phenomenological experience of the artist-viewer, raised to a new self-awareness through subjective experience. Giacometti, an intimate of Sartre and Beckett in postwar Paris, understood the nature of existentialism and its imperatives to create meaning in one's own life and to embrace existence when reality becomes uncertain. Giacometti stated, "The most transitory things are not the flowers [for a still life] but us and the painting. The flowers continue growing undisturbed, and their melancholy has nothing in common with our black thoughts Yes, it does--for people, life keeps going on, too, just as for flowers; they're never exactly the same; but people paint pictures, that's why everything's different for them" (quoted in R. Hohl, ed., Giacometti: A Biography in Pictures, Stuttgart, 1998, p. 159).

(fig. 1) Paul Cézanne, Le Vase bleu, 1889-1890. Musée d'Orsay, Paris. BARCODE 25247817