Trois hommes qui marchent I epitomises Giacometti's mature style developed during the years immediately following World War II, characterised by the tall, slender figures for which he is best known. No longer interested in recreating physical likenesses in his sculptures, the artist began working from memory, seeking to capture his figures beyond the physical reality of the human form. Giacometti elongated the vertical axis while reducing the thickness of his sculptures: the men in the present work are thus composed of thin lines, lending the composition a weightless, almost impalpable quality. The image of a man can be interpreted as a symbolic representation of the artist himself and, in a wider context of the post-war period, as a reflection of the lonely and vulnerable human condition, a theme that very much preoccupied the artist at this time. The three men in this composition are rendered as lean, wiry figures, a feature of Giacometti's work that reached its ultimate form during this period.
The present work is the first of two versions of Trois hommes qui marchent, depicting three men on a raised platform, walking in different directions. Between 1947 and 1950 Giacometti made several sculptures centred on the figure of the walking man, alone or in a small group, sat on a platform suggestive of a city square, such as the present work. Other sculptures from this period, now widely recognised as the pinnacle of his œuvre, include Homme qui marche sous la pluie (fig. 1) and La Place II (fig. 2). It is clear that the present composition – with its anonymous, non-communicating figures in movement, each oblivious to the others' presence – perfectly captures the artist's existentialist concerns that preoccupied him at the time.
In the late 1940s, Giacometti was fascinated by spatial relationships and the concept of movement within a single work, and began to create works which employed multiple figures on a common base. The present sculpture was undeniably conceived in an urban context – the platform on which the figures are derived from the notion of a city square and its juxtaposition of striding figures, suggesting the way in which isolated city dwellers pass without stopping or interacting. Referring to the new perception of people and the space surrounding them that informs the present composition, Giacometti recounted that, upon leaving a cinema in 1945, he suddenly felt that 'people seemed like a completely foreign species, mechanical... mindless machines, like men in the street who come and go... a bit like ants, each one going about his own business, alone ignored by the others. They crossed paths, passed by, without seeing each other, without looking... In the street people astound and interest me more than any sculpture or painting. Every second the people stream together and go apart, they approach each other to get closer to one another. They unceasingly form and reform living compositions in unbelievable complexity... The men passed each other without looking. Or they stalk a woman. A woman is standing and four men direct their steps more or less toward the spot where the woman is standing... it is the totality of his life that I want to reproduce in everything I do' (quoted in Pierre Schneider, 'Ma longue marche par Alberto Giacometti', in L'Express, Paris, 8th June 1961, pp. 48-50). Anther cast of this sculpture is located in the Alberto Giacometti Stiftung, Zurich.
Fig. 1, Alberto Giacometti, Homme qui marche sous la pluie, 1948, bronze, Alberto Giacometti Foundation, Zurich
Fig. 2, Alberto Giacometti, La Place II, 1947-48, bronze, National Gallery of Art, Washongton, D.C.
New York, Sidney Janis Gallery, Exhibition of Sculpture, Painting and Drawing by Alberto Giacometti, 1985, no. 27, illustrated in the catalogue
Paris, Musée National d'Art Moderne, Qu'est-ce que la sculpture moderne?, 1986, no. 208, illustrated in the catalogue
Madrid, Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia, Alberto Giacometti dibujo, escultura, pintura, 1990-91, no. 194, illustrated in the catalogue (titled Trois hommes qui marchent II)
Height: 72cm. 28 3/8 in.
Jacques Dupin, Alberto Giacometti, Paris, 1962, illustration of another cast p. 245
Palma Bucarelli, Alberto Giacometti, Rome, 1962, illustration of another cast pl. 33 (photographed prior to the addition of the plinth)
Michel Courtois, 'La figuration magique de Giacometti', in Art International, Lugano, Summer 1962, illustration of another cast p. 39
Poul Vad, 'Giacometti', in Signum II, Copenhagen, 1962, p. 35
Raoul-Jean Moulin, Giacometti: Sculptures, New York, 1964, illustration of another cast pl. 5
Michel Ragon, 'Alberto Giacometti. Peintre et sculpteur', in Jardin des Arts, Paris, 1968, no. 158, illustration of another cast p. 7
Franz Meyer, Alberto Giacometti – Wirkung und Gestalt, Frauenfeld, 1968, pp. 158 & 160
Reinhold Hohl, Alberto Giacometti, New York, 1971, illustration of another cast p. 126
Yves Bonnefoy, Alberto Giacometti, a Biography of His Work, Paris, 1991, no. 305, illustration of another cast p. 333
David Sylvester, Looking at Giacometti, London, 1994, illustration of another cast p. 193
Angela Schneider (ed.), Alberto Giacometti, Sculpture. Paintings. Drawings, New York, 1994, no. 53, illustration of another cast
Pierre Matisse Gallery, New York (acquired in February 1950)
Private Collection, USA (acquired from the above in 1954)
Sidney Janis Gallery, New York
Eppinghoven Collection, Germany
Sale: Christie's, New York, 10th May 1994, lot 63
Purchased at the above sale by the previous owner
Acquired from the above by the present owner