Giacometti – a line through time


Giacometti influenced, and was influenced by, many. His work is useful in providing a contextual understanding for HSC English Extension Module B: Texts and Ways of Thinking Elective 1: After the Bomb. I spent a morning at the Sainsbury Centre for Visual Art enthralled by the permanent displayed collection and current exhibitions: Alberto Giacometti A Line Through Time and Henri Cartier-Bresson Paris.

The press release for A Line Through Time, which commemorates the 50th anniversary of Giacometti’s death, states that

[i]t will focus on his work and influence during the post-war period on both sides of the Channel. Examining his preoccupation with the isolated figure, a motif that dominated his work, it will explore a number of key themes which include the influence of ancient art on Giacometti’s practice, the context of his contemporaries in post-war Paris and his impact in Britain.

Following the Second World War, alienated figures and the theme of isolation dominated Giacometti’s practice. This work secured his place as one of the great modern masters of the twentieth century. The exhibition will closely consider the context and cultural climate of Paris where Giacometti was living following the war, a time fraught with anxiety.

Notes accompanying various artworks explained

  • the walking figure is one of his best known motifs. In all the various forms, the ‘walking men’ were the embodiment of the isolation and anxiety associated with the Existentialism of post-war Europe.
  • an existential reading of the ‘cage’ motif works suggest the cage itself amplifies a feeling of claustrophobia, isolation and anguish
  • program copy of Jean-Paul Sartre’s essay The Search for the Absolute as a philosophical framework for Giacometti’s work.
e6ec2cc99a65ea21c8790f4234d4b34e0c54d46cfrom Fondation - Giacometti  

8LTUGiacometti crossing rue d'Alesia 1961
Henri Cartier- Bresson from

These haunting pieces, together with British artworks from the post-war period, effectively represent the emotional and philosophical perspectives of the time. They may be useful as stimulus for students in developing an appropriate mood in their creative and imaginative writing.


*featured image from


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