Alberto Giacometti - Paris sans fin 1958-65

Alberto Giacometti (1901-66) was not only a sculptor, but also an outstanding painter, draughtsman and graphic artist. The idea for the principal work Paris sans fin arose during a meeting with the publisher Tériade, at which Giacometti, observing the bustling street life of the French capital after a visit to a café, exclaimed: ″Ah! Paris ... Paris without end!″.

Towards the end of his life, Giacometti worked intensely on this book work, which consists of a total of 150 original lithographs. Published posthumously in 1969, the book’s text and images are a passionate testimony to the place he loved best – Paris. 

Together, the lithographs describe a pictorial, almost cinematic, everyday stroll through the city’s streets and squares. They tell of encounters with female acquaintances, as well as of visits to the Natural History Museum and the lithography workshop l’Atelier Mourlot. We see public monuments and café and bar scenes from Montparnasse, with cigarette machines and absinthe. Some of the lithographs also depict the intimate working space of the studio. 

Litography as his medium

Giacometti chose lithography as his medium because the technique allowed him to equip his depictions of Paris with an immediate, sketch-like quality that matched the pace and rhythm of the bustling metropolis. Unlike most of his work, which was created slowly in the studio, Giacometti sketched many of the motifs for this graphic work on site, using coloured chalk on transfer paper.  

Giacomettis karakteristiske skulpturkunst

Paris sans fin, however, also includes depictions of Giacometti’s distinctive sculpture, including portrait busts and figures with elongated, isolated and almost transparent human forms. The latter particularly characterise the post-war period, when he returned to Paris after a stay of several years in Geneva. While Giacometti’s busts strive to balance the pictorial matter with the character of the subject, the tall, slender figure style with its reduction of form is partly modelled on older, pre-classical art, as well as on art produced by non-European peoples and civilisations. With well-developed artistic instinct, these links are transformed backwards in time into realistic and existentially oriented art. 

Like the sculptures, Paris sans fin is an exploration of spatial relationships. The drawn line does not fix the motifs within a closed outline, but instead expresses dynamic transitions in relation to its surroundings. In general, Giacometti’s art seeks to capture the essence of the visual experience, so that the distance between motif and viewer becomes part of the final form of the work. ″I reproduce what I see″, he often said. Despite the blurring of details and individual characteristics, the figure drawings nonetheless provide a strong sense of physical and psychological presence.

″I reproduce what I see″, Giacometti often stated. Despite the blurring of details and individual characteristics, the drawing of the figure gives a strong sense of physical and psychological presence.