The day I was drawn by Alberto Giacometti

GiacomettiPhoto: ‘Giacometti refused to let my father buy the drawings, telling us he wouldn’t sell them because they were no good.’ Photograph: Gordon Parks/The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images

The Swiss artist was on an endless search for perfection and created beautiful pieces that he was never happy with

I am a big fan of Giacometti ! It was very recently that I came across this article on the Guardian about Giacometti was written by Lord Sainsbury and found it fascinating as life plays out…

I truly hope you enjoy, it’s brief read…

t was 1955 and I was a lanky 15-year-old, on holiday in south-west France with my parents. On the way back to our hotel one day my mother said to my father: “David looks like a Giacometti figure; why don’t we get Giacometti to do some drawings of him?” My father thought it was a great idea, so I was taken to Paris by train the next day, to his studio.

My parents had first met Giacometti in 1949, when they bought two pieces from him. They’d kept in touch over the years, so it didn’t seem at all strange to visit. His studio was small and dilapidated, and overcrowded with large sculptures at various stages of completion. I was extremely nervous about the whole thing: I’d gone from the Lascaux caves to being drawn by a great artist within the space of 24 hours. He answered the door in a jacket and tie, looking not at all as I, an English public schoolboy, expected an artist to look. My parents left and he began to draw. For the next two hours there was silence. He spoke very little English and I was too shy to utter any of my limited French. Occasionally he’d put his head in his hands and groan.

By the time my parents came back, there were five beautiful drawings. My father decided he wanted to buy three, but Giacometti refused, telling us he wouldn’t sell them because they were no good. My father insisted on paying, but he wouldn’t take a penny. After much to-ing and fro-ing, Giacometti’s girlfriend, Annette, came into the room and after a chat about life it emerged that, more than anything else in the world, Annette wanted a mackintosh from Marks & Spencer. So Giacometti struck a deal: my parents would be given the three drawings and, when we got back to England, they would send a mackintosh to Annette by way of payment.

He spoke very little English and I was too shy to try French. Occasionally he’d put his head in his hands and groan

I met with Giacometti a few more times in subsequent years. He was the most fascinating man, a respected artist who’d come from quite a comfortable background, but was most at ease in his rundown studio or a cheap hotel with just a notebook for company. It was very clear he didn’t want middle-class comforts. They were a distraction. It was a bleak setting, but in that room he created the most beautiful works. He was on an endless search for perfection and would make no issue of destroying pieces that weren’t up to scratch. He even asked my father to return the drawings of me “to be finished”, but it was known that he’d often do that with works he was unhappy with and then never return them.

I was recently going through some papers when I discovered a bill from Aquascutum for a mackintosh, with a letter to my parents from Annette. She thanked them for the “most beautiful thing in the world” – the coat – and made a point of saying how much “Alberto” loved it, too. •

Alberto Giacometti: A Line through Time runs from 23 April-29 August at the Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts, University of East Anglia, Norwich

It was 1955 and I was a lanky 15-year-old, on holiday in south-west France with my parents. On the way back to our hotel one day my mother said to my father: “David looks like a Giacometti figure; why don’t we get Giacometti to do some drawings of him?” My father thought it was a great idea, so I was taken to Paris by train the next day, to his studio.

My parents had first met Giacometti in 1949, when they bought two pieces from him. They’d kept in touch over the years, so it didn’t seem at all strange to visit. His studio was small and dilapidated, and overcrowded with large sculptures at various stages of completion. I was extremely nervous about the whole thing: I’d gone from the Lascaux caves to being drawn by a great artist within the space of 24 hours. He answered the door in a jacket and tie, looking not at all as I, an English public schoolboy, expected an artist to look. My parents left and he began to draw. For the next two hours there was silence. He spoke very little English and I was too shy to utter any of my limited French. Occasionally he’d put his head in his hands and groan.

By the time my parents came back, there were five beautiful drawings. My father decided he wanted to buy three, but Giacometti refused, telling us he wouldn’t sell them because they were no good. My father insisted on paying, but he wouldn’t take a penny. After much to-ing and fro-ing, Giacometti’s girlfriend, Annette, came into the room and after a chat about life it emerged that, more than anything else in the world, Annette wanted a mackintosh from Marks & Spencer. So Giacometti struck a deal: my parents would be given the three drawings and, when we got back to England, they would send a mackintosh to Annette by way of payment.

He spoke very little English and I was too shy to try French. Occasionally he’d put his head in his hands and groan

I met with Giacometti a few more times in subsequent years. He was the most fascinating man, a respected artist who’d come from quite a comfortable background, but was most at ease in his rundown studio or a cheap hotel with just a notebook for company. It was very clear he didn’t want middle-class comforts. They were a distraction. It was a bleak setting, but in that room he created the most beautiful works. He was on an endless search for perfection and would make no issue of destroying pieces that weren’t up to scratch. He even asked my father to return the drawings of me “to be finished”, but it was known that he’d often do that with works he was unhappy with and then never return them.

I was recently going through some papers when I discovered a bill from Aquascutum for a mackintosh, with a letter to my parents from Annette. She thanked them for the “most beautiful thing in the world” – the coat – and made a point of saying how much “Alberto” loved it, too.

Alberto Giacometti: A Line through Time runs from 23 April-29 August at the Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts, University of East Anglia, Norwich

the Guardian has so many well-written articles regarding the arts!

About the Author

Bill West
The founder and director of several fine art related promotional marketing companies along with their companion websites. Bill West is all about Art, Sculpture and all things Spatial. The aforementioned website’s – ARTdefs.com - SculptSite.com, his blog and podcast - SpatialSite.com – all provide a place for artists, both those just getting started to those who are seasoned an achievable path to recognition. Through Comprehensive Search & Discovery - with relevant results all Linked directly to you the Artist. You, the artist control all your links, nor more haphazard pie in the sky guesswork! Thus enabling you the Artist to display and achieve the all important feedback about your work. Not only that, but it assists in setting up that critical dialogue with potential clients. Here artists, sculptors, photographers, and object artists have an opportunity to participate, and exhibit their work in a visual place that is highly Searchable, and easily accessible to the public. No programming and it's Visual! BE SEEN! We do not sell, but assist you in the sales process. Bill feels that we are an important component of your marketing and promotional success. If you do one thing to promote your art – ArtSearchLinks.com would be an ideal choice… Bill West first became involved in the visual communications industry in 1972. Eight years later he’d formed his own computer graphics systems company, which integrated Auto cad and 3D visualization programs to the PC. Always a forward thinker, Bill can spot market changes in the making and is good at positioning companies to benefit from that eventuality. A good example of this seeming clairvoyance is the way he jumped on the internet in 1993. By 1995 he had created a respected internet marketing business catering to the visual arts community. With years of knowledge and experience under his belt, Bill is a seasoned entrepreneur, gallery owner (since 1971) and solid supporter of the arts. Bill works to pave the way for all artists, both seasoned as well as new and upcoming artist talent.

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