Giacometti Paints Himself (1966 Video)

Man Ray, Portrait of Alberto Giacometti (Photograph)

In a 1966 video (link below) Alberto Giacometti paints a portrait of Ernst Scheidegger, a Swiss photographer. We see how carefully and precisely he builds up the geometric structure of a face. What caught my attention, though, not knowing German, was the English transcript of the dialogue. In it the narrator, probably borrowing from the artist's own explanation, describes the portrait process as we do here: as the artist's own face fused with the sitter's!

The narrator describes Giacometti's almost-mystical sense of the process.

"A face appears on the canvas which is his own face (italics added) but also that of another, distant person who will appear out of the depth if only you reach out for him. But as you do reach out the person recedes, remaining just beyond your grasp."

Here's the link: Alberto Giacometti painting

Posted 04 Nov 2015: GiacomettiPortraitureTheory

Reader Comments

I find Giacometti’s scaffolding-like portrait painting fascinating! Notice the b/w photograph you include in this blog post. Do we note the window pained line work on Alberto’s blazer? Did he choose his wardrobe? Is his philosophy worn on his sleeves? Coincidence? - Well, it weaves a silver web in my perspective on this topic.

When I watch the video of Giacometti painting Ernest Schiedegger, I notice his fine (narrow width) brushwork. It’s like painting with an x-acto knife. He executes such a precise mark and a very referential, comparative process. I see that in his own face, Giacometti has age lines below his cheekbone, vertical delineation like he connects in his demonstration. Here, he’s likely painted self-portraits and seated models before and is well honed in his approach as the connector or constructor carving away the void from the subject of focus.

Also, I remember a few posts ago, maybe about 10-15, you, Mr. Abrahams, noted that writers also paint themselves or write themselves. Yes, I see that too. How could an individual mind express anyone’s’ but their own perspective, imagined perspective? Expanding that…I believe readers read with that defining, line drawing method of comparing the other to the self. At least, I do. I see Giacometti’s brush choice and have a sense of aesthetic difference as I use much broader size brushes in my own work and it’s highly noticeable to see Giacometti in act. His method also employs what I measure as “safety” drawing or marking. - I notice I’m engaging with the art love as well as I can, choosing word containers for meaning my attraction and I think that’s existential.

It’s funny; I was thinking and looking at The Palace at 4 am, a sculptural work of Giacometti prior to considering an EPPH visit, tonight. Reading about that work seems he was in a romantic relationship during its construction (1932). It’s delicate, human (woman fig, spine). How opposite the WWII years of suffering must have affected his psyche and artistic expression. Withered determination seems to manifest, in my opinion.

As a reader viewing your words, the forms that shape meaning, I compare your choices of expression with how I view the movie/video. I compare it to my own life. I think of the scaffolding we employed in my father’s contracting (construction) projects is a similar construction process as Giacometti building his model’s face, and Giacometti’s face. Furthermore, scaffolding uplifts operators, sand blasters and paint coaters, in my case. Some poetic metaphors for me to connect with Giacometti and your illuminating text. Your perspectives working as a bridge into others work.

Anyways, I just feel like expressing some joy as a reader of your work. Love the site. Love the challenge and fun of engaging with art! Best wishes forward, Mr. Abrahams.

Adam Brown
09 Nov 2015

Dear Adam,
Thank you so much for the thoughtful and insightful comment on Giacometti and how to approach his art through metaphor. It’s right on target and particularly appreciated coming from an artist. Your kind words about my own efforts lifted my spirits and will help keep me going. So, thanks again and I look forward to hearing more from you.
Regards Simon

Simon Abrahams
11 Nov 2015

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