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A Giacometti Portrait Paperback – July 1, 1980

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 126 pages
  • Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux (July 1, 1980)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0374515735
  • ISBN-13: 978-0374515737
  • Product Dimensions: 8.1 x 5.4 x 0.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 4.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (20 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #79,253 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


"James Lord's timeless account . . . documents how torturous creation can be, even, or perhaps especially, for a creative genius." --Jacqueline White, Ruminator Review

About the Author

James Lord is an acclaimed American author who has lived in France for many years. His books include Plausible Portraits of James Lord, A Giacometti Portrait, Giacometti: A Biography, and four volumes of memoirs. In recognition of his contribution to French culture, he was made an officer of the Legion of Honor.

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Customer Reviews

4.6 out of 5 stars
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Whenever you get frustrated with your work, pick up this quick read.
This book documents a rare engagement of the critic, James Lord, with Giacometti over a one week session where his portrait was drawn.
Geoffrey Goldberg
Highly recommended for artists and art students, who are looking for inspiration and encouragement for pursuing art career.

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

24 of 24 people found the following review helpful By MOVIE MAVEN on August 5, 2001
Format: Paperback
Anyone who has ever wondered how a truly great artist gets his inspiration, works on a daily basis and incorporates his philosophies of life into his work will want to read this terrific story of how a young, American writer sat for his portrait by the legendary Alberto Giacometti.
Almost non-stop upon their meeting, Giacometti opens up and begins letting his thoughts come tumbling out of his mouth. He tells his subject that he looks like "a thug...if I could paint you as I see you and a policeman saw the picture he'd arrest you immediately!" And then, "Don't laugh. I'm not supposed to make my models laugh." He tells the author of his trip to London's National Gallery where he says, "...I deliberately didn't look at the Rembrandts, because if I had looked at them I wouldn't have been able to look at anything else afterward." Later on in his work, "It's impossible to paint a portrait...the photograph exists and that's all there is to it."
Giacometti was not only one of the greatest artists of the last century he was also, obviously, a wonderful, contradictory, clever, intelligent, verbal, loving, open, warm companion. When the painting is not going well, the artist exclaims, "If only Cezanne were here, he would set everything right with two brush strokes." Lord gently corrects him pointing out that Cezanne had plenty of trouble. And then Giacometti (probably with a hint of happiness) agrees, "Even he had trouble."
One comes to know these two men so well in this small, beautifully written memoir that one feels close to them and to their emotional upset when after only eighteen days, they part ways.
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24 of 29 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on December 7, 1998
Format: Paperback
This book is a must, for fans of Giacometti's work and for artists world wide. It gives one the opportunity to be in the studio with a great artist. It is wonderfull but terrible at the same time, as an artist, I came away from the book feeling completely insignificant untalented and without hope, however this is a good thing, it is an experience all artists must, and do go through. Please read the book you will learn so much!
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Tanis on August 31, 2007
Format: Paperback
I always know when I am confronted with a portrait by Giacometti. The manner in which he presents his work is completely different to that of any other artist. Giacometti was haunted by a desire to understand what it meant to be alive. His own life he could dismiss, but faced with another, the mystery of his alien being-how it filled up space, how it battled with the hostile elements of its existence-seemed to Giacometti infinitely mysterious and marvelous. It was, above all, the head that perpetually challenged him, and more specifically the gaze-the look that another person exchanges with us, which Giacometti saw as both unfolding the mystery of that personality and yet, perpetually concealing it.
The portrait of "Jean Genet" is beautiful. Giacometti had known Genet for a year when he painted "Genet" oil on canvas. It is an impressive picture. It was Genet's appearance that had first drawn Giacometti to him, especially the shape of his head, so bald, so round-a skull in which the whole mystery of personality resided. He avoids the allure of colour; instead the picture is brown and white, with just the faint streaks of earth red to enliven it. Yet never is it more clear that a human being is a creature of majesty.
When Giacometti used his wife as a subject of painting you can see through the art he was striving to come to terms with this person who, in theory, was the closest to him. The piece of work, "ANNETTE" It is almost as though he has scratched her portrait out of a world of white into which she would otherwise disappear. There are black markings that claw her back. She seems as riveted and horrified by the experience of encountering her husband's gaze as he is by hers. Those great eyes of hers glare at the world without emotion, the lips are pursed, and, although the body is sketchy, there is an uncanny sense of presence. He has cought her, as if in a momentary flash of light, and there she will stand transfixed forever.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Michael D. Tillyer on January 22, 2011
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Alberto Giacometti's career does serve as a bridge connecting an art emanating from a series of cultural (or consider national) ideal sets to an art belonging to the eternal present that is humanist and material.

Neoclassicism's imitation of the good, Romanticism's creative interpretation of nature, Expressionism's subjective reflection, for example, boxed artistic output of the period to which it belonged. For each period, fixed ideas of art ruled supreme over the artist's experience--up to the disturbances, the all out wars of the twentieth century that shredded the notion of culture for much of European intelligentsia.

Giacometti found a way out, albeit a lonely path and one not well understood. And here Lord stepped in as Giacometti's advocate against an establishment whose nature is to tame and classify the wild process of studio life.

Lord's portrait of the portraitist wresting with the portrait of the writer is a closed loop of intertwined subjectivism, but by the observing distance he allows us, we are caused to reflect on the experience of process that is Giacometti's gift to the legacy of Western fine art tradition. From his life on, wakefulness to the experience of making has become the ultimate paradigm of post-modernism, and Giacometti got us here, and Lord saved the snapshot that allowed us to understand it.

The reader will find Lord's exquisitely developed shadow of a studio that is the mise-en-scène perfect for the placement of the odd personality that is the artist. It is not a report he gives, or is it a biography, critique or interpretation; it is an attempt to present what the writer sees exactly as he see it, a parallel process to that of the artist who is flustering to do the same to the writer, but on canvas.

This is not the book to be read once or twice, but it is a little consultant to be kept in the studio preferably.
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