When we look at a painting hanging on an art gallery wall, we see only what the artist has chosen to disclose--the finished work of art. What remains mysterious is the process of creation itself--the making of the work of art. Everyone who has looked at paintings has wondered about this, and numerous efforts have been made to discover and depict the creative method of important artists. "A Giacometti Portrait "is a picture of one of the century's greatest artists at work.
James Lord sat for eighteen days while his friend Alberto Giamcometti did his portrait in oil. The artist painted, and the model recorded the sittings and took photographs of the work in its various stages. What emerged was an illumination of what it is to be an artist and what it was to be Giacometti--a portrait in prose of the man and his art. A work of great literarydistinction, "A Giacometti Portrait "is, above all, a subtle and important evocation of a great artist.
A Giacometti Portrait gives a vibrant account of the work habits of a man who lit cigarettes as he painted (holding them in his left hand, which also held his palette and brushes) and seemed unaffected by the whorls of smoke that wreathed his head. The book is also a perceptive study of an artist who believed he could never reproduce on canvas what he saw but who had a compulsion to try that caused him continual anxiety.
For all the ups and downs, Lord enjoyed the 18 days that Giacometti spent on his portrait and had the foresight to take photographs of the picture different stages, a dozen of which appear in his book. He doesn’t speculate on whether his friend’s hairpin mood turns might betoken more than the usual artistic insecurities, perhaps a low-grade mania, and his restraint has helped to keep his work from becoming dated: It lacks the therapeutic cant that of recent memoirs. Apart from its insights into the creative processes of a modern master, A Giacometti Portrait has striking glimpses of the artist’s relations with his wife, his dealers, his admirers, and his brother Diego, and others who moved in and out of his Paris studio.
A Giacometti Portrait
Snippet view - 1965