Giacometti – Pure Presence, at the National Portrait Gallery Review

This is the first large – scale exhibition of Giacometti portraits in the UK for a long time.

As a leading modernist working along side artists like Picasso and Miro, this is an excellent

introduction into his work and his life before the retrospective exhibition at the Tate in 2017.

Focusing purely on the portraits of just a few of his most intimate sitters,including his brother Diego,

his wife Annette, friend and writer Jean Genet and lover Isabel Nichol.

Each separate space within the gallery is devoted to one singular sitter, exposing Giacometti’s obsessive and extream nature.

Revealing the repetition, dissolution and isolation as essential parts to his intense way of seeing, and how he wanted to show exactly what he saw.

The feeling within the exhibition itself is also intense, paintings are quite close together and you seem to be rushed around the space.

There is no seating to just sit and contemplate the intensity and energy within the work. Except where a video of an interview with him is playing.


His portraits are nearly always frontal views of a single immobile figure, suspended within the painting lacking any kind of emotion

other than that of an intense gaze upon the artist.

Created with layers of energetic lines repeatedly layered upon one another, using muted tones and transparency throughout his work.

There is only a mere hint at his sculptural oeuvre, and this somehow lets down the portraiture as the two do fit hand in hand,

and really show you Giacometti’s way of seeing.

Having influenced the likes of Frances Bacon Frank Aubach, Don Farrell and Lesley Dill, Giacometti shows us a way of seeing that is so relevant today, with the influx of, social media and the way we now ‘see’ people, makes one wonder if he was ahead of his time, as Genet wrote on leaving his studio “Everything is Floating and about to collapse, everything is about dissolve, everything is floating; and yet it all appears to be captured in absolute reality”


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