The first time I became aware that as I looked at a head it became fixed, immobilized forever in that single instant, I trembled with fear as I never had before in my whole life, and a cold sweat ran down my back. It was no longer a living head but an object I was looking at, in the same way as I might look at any other object…No, though, not quite; not as if it were any other object but as if it were something simultaneously alive and dead. All the living were dead, and this vision often recurred…1
1 Excerpt from Alberto Giacometti, "Le Rêve, le Sphinx et la mort de T," trans. David Sylvester and Grey Gowrie in Sylvester, Looking at Giacometti (London: Chatto & Windus, 1994), pp. 114-115. First published in Labyrinthe (Paris, 1946).
One must learn to look and the hand/
I saw Alberto die I was seated at his bedside/
He was not seeing a brother at his deathbed/
1 Diego Giacometti in Giacometti, et al., Alberto Giacometti: Drawings (New York: Claude Bernard Gallery, 1988), p. 8.
Alberto Giacometti was close to his younger brother Diego (1902-1985) throughout his life. They shared an apartment in Paris for many years and worked in adjacent studios. If Diego was not involved with one of his own projects—mostly designing or building furniture—he usually assisted Alberto by making plaster casts of his new sculptures, making bases, or sitting for portraits like this one.
Diego's head is the one I know best. He's posed for me over a longer period of time and more often than anyone else. From 1935 to 1940 he posed for me every day, and again after the war for years. So when I draw or sculpt or paint a head from memory it always turns out to be more or less Diego's…1
1 James Lord, A Giacometti Portrait (New York: The Museum of Modern Art, circa 1964), p. 24.