The Artist's Mother, 1937
La mère de l'artiste

The return to nature studies after the Surrealist works led Giacometti towards an artistic quest that preoccupied him until 1947 and was ultimately to lead to his celebrated slender sculptures. Among the innumerable experiments with the tiny figures, most of which barely survived the creative process, this key work stands out. Here, for the first time, in a surprising anticipation of his mature work, reality is captured not with naive directness but in a living recreation of the process of seeing (phenomenological realism). In this reconstruction of inner perception, outer colours retreat into the background. Working intensively with his mother in front of him over a long period, the son deploys rigorous lines to record his subject with a density that captivates the viewer and refuses to let go.

Alberto Giacometti’s portrait of his mother is central to the development of his art, while its very lack of ornament makes it a masterpiece and one of the most important portrayals of a human being in the 20th century.

Oil on canvas
60.0 x 50.0 cm
Kunsthaus Zürich, loan of Dr. Anton and Anna Bucher-Bechtler, 2004
Object number
GS 255
Not signed
Further information
  • Zürcher Kunstgesellschaft | Kunsthaus Zürich (Museum), Zürich, Leihgabe
  • Alberto Giacometti-Stiftung (Sammlung), 2004, Depositum Dr. Anton und Anna Bucher-Bechtler
  • Paul Matisse
  • Verbleib unbekannt
  • Pierre Matisse (Sammler), vermutlich schon 1948, Kauf beim Künstler
  • Alberto Giacometti