The Walking Man, in his many incarnations throughout Giacometti’s production, was understood to be the artist’s self-portrait. Archival photographs commonly show Giacometti as a lanky, often laconic-looking figure, with his shoulders slumped and walking down a rainy Parisian street (see fig. 1). We can see this likeness readily in Homme traversant une place par un matin de soleil, also known as Homme qui marche sous le soleil, which the artist even admitted was a representation of himself. This sculpture was created at the end of the 1940s, around the same time as City Square II (see fig. 2), which depicts multiple men walking in various directions across a plaza. The present figure has the same wide gait and comportment of one of these figures. In all of their various forms, the Walking Men were the embodiment of the isolation and anxiety symptomatic of post-war Europe. Frozen in time yet determined to move forward, alone yet unable to escape the urban throng, these solitary figures have come to symbolize the great existential dilemma of the 20th century.
The present sculpture is an unnumbered cast from an edition of six, and one of three painted casts from the edition. Occasionally Giacometti would enhance the patinas of select casts by applying paint directly onto the bronze, and we can see the red flecks of paint that highlight the surface. This technique was also an allusion to the polychrome empyreal funerary figures of ancient Egyptian (see fig. 3), whose timeless stance Giacometti also reinterprets in the present sculpture. Although allusions to the past were common in Giacometti’s work, his aesthetic was undeniably modern. The figure itself is a simple assemblage of a few connected lines, yet Giacometti is able to portray the determination and strength of his ‘man’ with just a few simple gestures. With the support of a small armature, Giacometti first created this work in clay, molding and pinching his form to achieve a highly tactile final figure. Next, he relied on his brother Diego to cast the work in bronze, preserving every nick and impression that he had created in the original clay. This work, which was the artist’s proof, bares all the markings and fine details of this hands-on process.
Although it has been variously titled, Annette Giacometti referred to this work as Man Crossing a Square in the Sun. We can imagine the long shadow this figure would cast if it were indeed to be set outdoors, not unlike that of an ancient sun dial. In her monograph on the artist, Valerie J. Fletcher compared the present sculpture with another one from the same time that depicts the man walking in the rain. She writes, "Giacometti once spoke of Man Walking Quickly in the Rain, 1948 and Man Crossing a Square in the Sun [the present sculpture], 1949, as representing himself [...] In Man Crossing a Square in the Sun, Giacometti made the pose more dynamic by tilting the torso further forward and lengthening the stride; this pose proved to be definitive, for it recurs in the monumental walking men of 1960" (Fletcher, op. cit., p. 136).
Giacometti first exhibited this cast of Homme qui marche sous le soleil at the Venice Biennial in 1962. In the exhibition catalogue this work is titled Piccolo uomo che cammina III, which accounts for one of the variant titles often given to the sculpture. In a photograph taken during the installation of one of the galleries, this sculpture can be seen in the far background (see fig. 4).
Fig. 1, Giacometti walking on the rue d'Alésia, Paris, 1961. Photograph by Henri Cartier-Bresson
Fig. 2, Alberto Giacometti, City Square II, 1948, bronze, Private Collection
Fig. 3, Wepwawet-em-hat, wooden statue from Assiut. First Intermediate Period. Boston, Museum of Fine Arts
Fig. 4, Installation photograph of the Venice Biennale, 1962. The present cast can be seen on the right in the background
Venice, XXXI Biennale Internazionale d'Arte, 1962, no. 55 (titled Piccolo uomo che cammina III and as dating from 1951)
Height: 18 1/4 in. 46.5 cm Conceived circa 1948-1949 and cast in 1950 in an edition of six.
Jacques Dupin, Alberto Giacometti, Paris, 1962, illustration of another cast p. 244 (titled Homme qui marche III and as dating from 1950)
Palma Bucarelli, Giacometti, 1962, no. 30, illustration of another cast (as dating from 1949)
Alberto Giacometti -- Sculptures, Paintings and Drawings (exhibition catalogue), Tate Gallery, London, 1965, illustration of another cast pl. 22
Reinhold Hohl, Alberto Giacometti, New York, 1971, illustration of the present cast on the dust-jacket
Valerie J. Fletcher, Alberto Giacometti 1901-1966 (exhibition catalogue), The Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington, D.C., 1988, discussed p. 135 (titled Man Crossing a Square on a Sunny Morning and as dating from 1949)
Herbert Matter, Alberto Giacometti, London, 1987, illustration of another cast pp. 59 and 75
Alberto Giacometti (exhibition catalogue), Thomas Gibson Fine Art, London, 1989, no. 17, illustration of another cast (as dating from 1950)
Angela Schneider, ed., Alberto Giacometti (exhibition catalogue), Nationalgalerie, Berlin; Staatsgalerie, Stuttgart, no. 52, illustration of another cast (titled Man Crossing a Square on a Sunny Morning and as dating from 1948-49)
Franz Meyer, Alberto Giacometti, Visto por los fotógrafos, Madrid, 2002, installation photograph of the 1962 Venice Biennale featuring the present work p. 114
Aimé Maeght, Paris
Private Collection, Paris
Sidney Janis Gallery, New York
Private Collection, New York (acquired from the above on March 23, 1989)
Gagosian Gallery, New York (acquired from the above)
Acquired from the above by the present owner