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Grande femme debout IV
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Grande femme debout IV
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Grande femme debout IV is one of a series of four monumental female figures that Giacometti created for an outdoor sculptural installation in Chase Manhattan Plaza.  The installation was never completed, but the Grandes femmes (see fig. 1) became iconic in their own right and have been widely exhibited both independantly and as an ensemble since their conception in 1960.  Each approximately nine feet in height, these figures were the largest that the artist ever made, and are often regarded as the culmination of his life's work as a sculptor.\n\nThe initiative for creating this series came about in 1956, when Gordon Bunshaft, the architect for the Chase Manhattan Bank building in New York City's financial district, asked Giacometti to design a group of sculptures for the building's large plaza on Pine Street.  Although Isamu Noguchi and Alexander Calder had also been considered for the commission, Giacometti seemed the obvious choice, considering his fascination with the theme of the city square in the 1940s and 1950s.  According to James Lord, the artist "was immediately responsive to the American proposal.  It is true that he felt a keen nostalgia for the idea of executing a sculpture to be placed in a city square, and that the theme of people seen either singly or in groups in urban environments had long been important to him.  It is also true that he had always been accustomed to seeing figures that looked no larger than pins below the towering peaks of Bregaglia.  And crucial turning points in his development had come from the vision of female figures in city streets at night, once in Padua, once in Paris.  Alberto wrote to his mother of the project.  It interested him passionately, he said" (James Lord, Giacometti, A Biography, 1983, New York, 377-78).  Initially Bunschaft had envisioned for the plaza an enlarged version of Giacometti's Three Walking Men of 1949, heightening the original sculpture to nearly sixty feet to suit the scale of his sixty story building. But because Giacometti was chiefly concerned with the precise spatial relationships of his sculptures, he was not inclined to alter arbitrarily the dimensions of his original work.  Instead, he proposed an entirely new composition that would be tailored to the proportions of the space in question. This proposed sculptural ensemble would consist of a head on a pedestal, a walking man and a standing woman - three themes which dominated the artist's oeuvre at this late point in his career.  Working from a cardboard scale model of Chase Manhattan Plaza, Giacometti created variant small models of these figures in his studio in Paris 1960 (see fig. 2).  In 1960, he finally cast a head, two variations of the walking man and four different tall standing women.\n\nChristian Klemm has discussed the significance of the figures that the artist chose for this project, and points out that Grande femme debout was perhaps the most meaningful of the group:  "Having reclaimed real space in the 1950s with sculptures that display a new three-dimensional solidity, Giacometti was in a position to form larger-than-life, freestanding figures and thus to realize both concepts by merging them.  By their dimensions alone the figures rise above the everyday - although they are anchored in it by being placed in a particular position - touching on the sphere typical of traditional cult figures.  Not part of the transcendental realism of religion and myth, they nevertheless point to past time - the walking man as the epitome of human striving, the head as a symbol of seeing consciousness.  The tradition of the cult image is seen at its clearest in the motionless, tall standing woman.  Its form required the most concentrated stylization for the autonomous sculptural quality of the figure to have an epiphantic effect on the viewer" (Christian Klemm, et al., Alberto Giacometti (exhibition catalogue), The Museum of Modern Art, New York; Kunsthaus, Zurich, 2001-02, p. 232).\n\nBecause of their monumental size, the four standing women would have been the central focus of the sculptural ensemble.  The image of the standing woman had a long history in Giacometti's production - its most famous incarnation perhaps being his Femmes de Venise, 1956-57, which are considered the direct precursors of the Grande femme series.  But the Grande femme debout also had ties to even earlier compositions by the artist, according to Valerie J. Fletcher: "Their size and grouping recall two earlier attempts at larger outdoors sculptures.  On a visit to Maloja in the early 1930s, Giacometti had made a plaster sculpture of three tall, abstract, thin figures standing in a field (no longer extant). The most significant antecedent for Giacometti's Chase Manhattan project was the 1948 City Square sculpture, where several men stride past an immobile woman in an urban plaza" (Valerie J. Fletcher, Alberto Giacometti, 1901-1966 (exhibition catalogue), Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington, D.C.; San Francisco Museum of Art, 1988, p. 216).\n\nGiacometti never submitted his final versions of these sculptures to the selection committee in New York, and his intentions for displaying these works in the plaza were never clarified.  His reservations rested mostly with his mixed feelings about the size of the Femmes, which he felt were too tall.  As late as 1964, he remarked to James Lord, "it isn't desirable to do large things, in either painting or in sculpture."  It is important to note that that Giacometti had not yet seen the intended site of these works while he was creating them, and was perhaps not able to appreciate fully the large scale of the buildings of lower Manhattan.  As Lord has written in his biography on the artist, Giacometti "had never set foot in New York and knew nothing about life in a rapidly evolving metropolis.  Nor had he never laid eyes on an actual skyscraper.  Moveover, he had a fear of heights, of empty space, of the void.  He liked to keep his feet planted firmly on the ground" (Lord, op. cit, p. 377).  When he finally visited New York in 1965 and saw Chase Manhattan Plaza for the first time, his feelings about the size of his sculptures suddenly changed, and he wanted to make his Grandes femmes twenty-five feet tall.  Although Deigo created an armiture for this project, Giacometti died before he could ever complete the work.  The Grandes femmes of 1960 thus remained the largest sculptures of his oeuvre and the embodiment of his newfound appreciation of sculptural monumentality.\n\nOf all his sculptures of standing women, Grande femme debout is perhaps one of his most dramatic.  The figure's haunting, elongated form, immobilized by large feet that are firmly rooted to their base, towers over the viewer with the permanence and fortitude of a giant tree (see figs. 3 and 4).  Valerie Fletcher has written about the Grandes femmes, commenting on the impact of their size and the impression that they leave upon the viewer: "The large scale of these works lends a greater physical presence than that of the earlier works, and their faces have an intense gaze, with hollowed sockets fixed unblinkingly on some remote vista or inner-directed goal...the woman's stare passes over all viewers, so that she seems expecially remote and hieratic" (ibid., 53).\n\nAccording to Dr. Fletcher, Grande femme debout IV was cast by the Susse Fondeur in a numbered edition of six, plus two artist's proofs.  Of the eight casts, six are in the following museum collections:\nFondation Maeght, Saint-Paul-de-Vence\nThe Los Angeles County Museum of Art\nNorton Simon Art Foundation, Pasadena\nBundner Kunstmuseum, Chur\nLouisiana Museum, Humlebaek\nFondation Beyeler, Basel\n\nComparables:\nFig. 1, Alberto Giacometti, Grande femme debout I, II, III, IV, 1960, bronze, Fondation Maeght, Saint-Paul-de-Vence\nFig. 2, Plaster cast of Grande femme debout IV outside Giacometti's studio in 1960. Photograph Ernst Scheidegger, Zurich.\nFig. 3, The artist in Paris on the rue d'Alésia in 1961.  Photograph Henri Cartier-Bresson.\nFig. 4, The artist with Grande femmes I and II at the Venice Biennale in 1962. Photograph Ugo Mulas.\nInscribed Alberto Giacometti and with the foundry mark Susse Fondeur, Paris and numbered 5/6
US
NY, US
US

medium

Bronze

creator

Alberto Giacometti

dimensions

Height: 106 1/4 in. (270 cm)

exhibition

New York, The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, Alberto Giacometti, 1974, no. 99 New York, Sidney Janis Gallery, 1985 New York, Gagosian, Giacometti Sculpture, 1993

literature

Jacques Dupin, Alberto Giacometti, Paris, 1962, photograph of the plaster cast in the courtyard of the artist’s studio p. 304 Alberto Giacometti (exhibition catalogue), The Museum of Modern Art, New York; The Art Institute of Chicago; Los Angeles County Museum of Art; The San Francisco Museum of Art, 1965, no. 67, illustration of another cast Alberto Giacometti, Sculptures, Paintings, Drawings 1913-65 (exhibition catalogue), The Tate Gallery, London, 1965, no. 85, illustration of another cast pl. 33 Giacometti and Dubuffet (exhibition catalogue), Sidney Janis Gallery, New York, 1968, no. 11, illustration of another cast Reinhold Hohl, Alberto Giacometti, New York, 1971, illustration of another cast p. 260 Alberto Giacometti Exposition au Japon (exhibition catalogue), The Seibu Museum of Art, Tokyo, 1983, no. 185, illustration of another cast Herbert and Mercedes Matter, Alberto Giacometti, New York, 1987, illustration of another cast p. 157 Valerie J. Fletcher, Alberto Giacometti, 1901-1966 (exhibition catalogue), Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington, D.C.; San Francisco Museum of Art, 1988, no. 92, illustration of another cast p. 217 Alberto Giacometti, The Artist’s Studio (exhibition catalogue), The Tate Gallery, London, 1991, photograph of the plaster cast in the courtyard of the artist’s studio p. 17 Alberto Giocometti, Visto por los fotografos, Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia, 1990, photograph of the plaster cast in the courtyard of the artist’s studio p. 89 Alberto Giacometti, sculptures, peintures, dessins (exhibition catalogue), Paris, 1991-92, no. 275, illustration of another cast p. 375 Angela Schneider, Alberto Giacometti, Sculpture, Paintings and Drawings, New York, 1994, photograph of the artist standing in front of the present work at the Venice Biennale p. 39 Yves Bonnefoy, Alberto Giacometti, A Biography of His Work, Paris, 1991, illustration of another cast p. 405

provenance

Pierre Matisse Gallery, New York (acquired from the artist) Acquired from the above by the present owner in June 1973

signedDate

Inscribed Alberto Giacometti and with the foundry mark Susse Fondeur, Paris and numbered 5/6

time_period

Conceived in 1960 and cast at a later date during the artist's lifetime.

creator_nationality_dates

1901 - 1966


*Note: The price is not recalculated to the current value. It refers to the actual final price at the time the item was sold.

*Note: The price is not recalculated to the current value. It refers to the actual final price at the time the item was sold.

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