Alberto Giacometti – Capturing the ‘Essence’ of Human Form

The sculptures of Alberto Giacometti (1901 – 1966) are among the most important works of modern art. His slender, elongated figures, distorted faces, and abstracted, minimalist forms have made him a popular personality in modern art.

Alberto Giacometti was born in Switzerland in 1901, the son of the famous impressionist painter Giovanni Giacometti. He taught his son to draw and model. But his uncle and brother were also artistically active. He created his first sculptures – the heads of his brothers – as a teenager. He was trained in an art school in Geneva, where he was influenced by masters such as Antoine Bourdelle and Auguste Rodin. A year later he traveled to Venice, Rome, and Naples to study the works of art there. In January 1922, he went to Paris and met some of the most famous artists such as Pablo Picasso, Constantin Brâncuși, Hans Arp, and Joan Miró.

In 1927, Giacometti began his experiments in form with almost abstract realizations of human figures. A year later, “Tête qui regarde” (fig. 1) was thus created. Giacometti described the 1928 sculpture as his favorite piece. Its mysteriousness and originality brought the artist a breakthrough in the Parisian art world1.

The object of art is not to reproduce reality, but to create a reality of the same intensity.

Alberto Giacometti

But his most famous works nowadays are the life-size figures he created with pronounced asymmetry and extremities reminiscent of human physicality. His sculptures were born out of a desire to capture the “essence” of a human form, that is, to create a work of art that embodied both the physical and emotional qualities of the subject. Giacometti believed that the human body is constantly changing, and his works reflect this idea. Although his best-known works are overall representations of people, the head was the most popular motif in his work.

Giacometti’s sculptures are characterized by their simplicity and abstraction, as he believed that the human form could be best represented by reducing it to its essential elements. Although his works are an important contribution to modern art today, his inspiration can be found far from the past. He was influenced by a variety of artists and styles, including Cubism, Surrealism, and Futurism, as well as the ancient sculptures of the Cyclades Islands, ancient Egypt, and African art. In addition, he admired the Renaissance master, Michelangelo. 

Giacometti died in Chur, Switzerland in 1966, but his work continues to inspire. He created unique sculptures with a subtle emotional depth. By using reduced and expressive forms, he created a distinctive aesthetic. His work is exhibited internationally, and several of his pieces are part of the collections of the most important museums in the world, including the Museum of Modern Art in New York, the Centre Pompidou in Paris, and the Tate Modern in London.

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Aesence is an independent art and design publication dedicated to minimalist aesthetics. Founded out of a deep appreciation and fascination, Aesence aims to promote awareness and appreciation of minimalism in art and design.