Diego Seated by Alberto Giacometti

Alberto Giacometti, Diego Seated, 1948
Alberto Giacometti, Diego Seated, 1948

Diego Seated (1948) is free and yet constrained portrait of the artist’s brother. The freedom of Giacometti’s linework, for this painting, is constrained by box-like lines surrounding the sitter, and the multiple layers of paint that make up his signature linework. It’s difficult to tell whether the sitter was etched onto the canvas or etched out of the paint, it’s a phenomenal illusion of many of Giacometti’s paintings. The portrait is an exploration. It’s Giacometti trying to find his brother on the canvas with layer upon layer of lines. Working it, and then re-working it, until a likeness appears. Even with a limited subject such as a single figure, the viewer is constantly discovering new marks on the canvas, which in turn, renews his translation of the painting. With Giacometti’s artwork, reading a painting is more about the artist rather than the subject of his art. As with Trouille, Giacometti has a very specific, and in his case, limited palette, favouring earthy tones with a burst of red, but he also has, with few exceptions, no desire to stray from the figure. People fascinate this artist, and this comes out in his paintings and sculptures. Even more curious is the relationship between his paintings and sculptures, which both exude a haunting undertone in the skeletal representation of the human beings that they capture. For example, Diego Seated initially appears to be a simple portrait of the artist’s brother, of which there are many. However, upon review the proportions of attire are disproportionate to the gaunt figure which dons them. The clarity of Giacometti’s vision is evident throughout his artworks, and his love for his sitter is honoured with each stroke of the brush. He was an honest man who painted what he saw, an attempt to capture a moment in time which he often struggled with as the instant in which he was attempting to capture constantly changed, as with each brush stroke.

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