This plaster model of Giacometti's Homme (Apollon) is the original sculpture that the artist executed in 1929. It was illustrated in Documents 4 that same year (fig. 1) with a text by Michel Leiris, the first feature article written about Giacometti. Pierre Matisse included this plaster in the now legendary exhibition he gave Giacometti in his New York gallery in January 1948, which sparked the artist's meteoric rise to international fame (see note to lot 32). Matisse appears to have acquired the plaster from Giacometti in March 1947. When he asked the sculptor to make a bronze cast for the exhibition, he assumed there was another plaster model that could be used for this purpose. When Giacometti replied, he pointed out that he (Matisse) was in possession of the sole plaster--no others existed. At the end of 1929, Giacometti had a single bronze cast made from this plaster model, which was sold through the Paris dealer Pierre Loeb. Matisse completed the standard bronze edition in 1954 by making an additional five casts.
Giacometti executed Homme (Apollon) only a couple of years after he moved into Paris studio at 46, rue Hippolyte-Maindron, which he kept for the rest of his life. This sculpture followed a series of plaque-like works done in 1928-1929, on whose surface Giacometti had carved out shallow furrows and concavities. He executed Homme in a similarly flat, planar manner; this time, however, he created an open geometric framework which gave the effect that entire sections of the vertical plane had been cut away. He modeled the head of the man like a small bowl, echoing the concave form he derived from African tribal art and had employed on a larger scale in Spoon Woman, 1926-1927. The brace-like diagonal elements within the frame are the man's angled arms.
The presence of the window-like lattice creates an ambiguous formal context with psychological implications: Giacometti has divested the figure of its customary free-standing status and placed it within this rigid, grid-like structure, which may be perceived as either supporting or confining the body within it. The subtitle Apollon refers to the Greek god of light. As the divine agent of enlightened thought and measured emotion, Apollo brought music, poetry, prophecy and the healing arts to humankind. The geometric balance of the cubist grid, divided into four equally sized quadrants, may allude to Apollo's rational and disciplined approach to making art. Giacometti appears to ponder whether Apollo's powers, which stand for classicism in its most structured and rigorous manner, are truly conducive to man's expressive freedom, or if they restrict and contain him instead.
Giacometti created what amounts to a female companion piece to Homme in his RecliningWoman Who Dreams (Femme couche qui rêve), another plaster sculpture he executed in 1929, which is visible in the background on the right side in the Documents 4 photograph reproduced here. Instead of the unyielding geometric grid he fashioned for Homme, Giacometti has buoyed up the sleeping woman with wave-like curves, as if she were adrift on a sea of dreams. The thick lattice-work elements in Homme soon evolved into the more thinly constructed frame, cage and set constructions that Giacometti created later during 1929 and into the early 1930s, such as Three Figures Outdoors (Trois personnages dehors), also seen in the photograph at foreground right. These sculptures attracted the attention of the Surrealists, who were keen to bring Giacometti into their camp. They encouraged Giacometti to explore the dark and violent themes that mark his work during the early 1930s, before he broke with them and turned to working from the model in a more figurative manner.
(fig. 1) Plaster sculptures by Giacometti, including Homme (Apollon). Photograph by Marc Vaux for an article on Giacometti by Michel Leiris, published in Documents 4, 1929. BARCODE 25013047
PROPERTY FROM A PRIVATE COLLECTION
Alberto Giacometti , 20th Century, Sculptures, Statues & Figures, plaster/stucco, Switzerland, Modern, figures
New York, Pierre Matisse Gallery, Alberto Giacometti: Exhibition of Sculpture, Paintings and Drawings, 1948, no. 2.
IMPRESSIONIST & MODERN ART
Height: 16 1/8 in. (40.9 cm.)
M. Leiris, "Alberto Giacometti," in Documents, September 1929, no. 4, p. 214 (bronze version illustrated).
P. Bucarelli, Alberto Giacometti, Rome, 1962 (bronze version illustrated, pl. 11).
J. Dupin, Alberto Giacometti, Paris, 1962, p. 40 (illustrated, p. 201).
F. Meyer, Alberto Giacometti: Eine Kunst existentieller Wirklichkeit, Stuttgart, 1968, p. 60.
C. Huber, Alberto Giacometti, Zurich and Lausanne, 1970, pp. 22 and 31 (bronze version illustrated, p. 28).
R. Hohl, Alberto Giacometti, Lausanne, 1971, p. 52 (bronze version illustrated).
R. Krauss, "Giacometti," in Primitivism in Twentieth-Century Art, exh. cat., New York, 1984, vol. 2, p. 527 (bronze version illustrated).
B. Lamarche-Vadel, Alberto Giacometti, Paris, 1984, p. 44, no. 61 (bronze version illustrated).
C. Juliet, Giacometti, Paris, 1985, p. 20 (bronze version illustrated).
K. von Maur, "La primera épocha de Giacometti 1925-1935," in Alberto Giacometti, exh. cat., Madrid, Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, 1990-1991, p. 60 (bronze version illustrated).
Y. Bonnefoy, Alberto Giacometti: A Biography of his Work, Paris, 1991, pp. 162-163, no. 156 (illustrated, p. 164).
G. Didi-Huberman, Le cube et le visage: autor d'une sculpture Alberto Giacometti, Paris, 1993, p. 82.
C. Di Crescenzo, Alberto Giacometti: Early Works in Paris (1922-1930), exh. cat., Yoshii Gallery, New York, 1994, p. 57 (illustrated).
T. Dufrêne, Alberto Giacometti: Les Dimensions de la réalité, Geneva, 1994, pp. 24 and 55.
A. Schneider, ed., Alberto Giacometti: Sculpture, Paintings, Drawings, Munich and New York, 1994, p. 15 (illustrated; bronze version illustrated, pl. 17).
T. Stooss and P. Elliott, Alberto Giacometti 1901-1966, exh. cat., Edinburgh, National Galleries of Scotland, 1996, p. 14 (illustrated).
J. Soldini, Alberto Giacometti: La Somiglianza introvabile, Milan, 1998, pp. 39 and 238.
C. Klemm, C. Lanchner, T. Bezzola and A. Umland, Alberto Giacometti, exh. cat., New York, Museum of Modern Art and Kunsthaus Zurich, 2001-2002, p. 75, no. 29 (illustrated).
A. González, Alberto Giacometti: Works, Writings, Interviews, Barcelona, 2006, pp. 26-28 (illustrated, p. 27).
Pierre Matisse, New York (acquired from the artist).
By descent from the above to the present owner.