Alberto Giacometti’s 'Portrait of James Lord'

Alberto Giacometti’s 'Portrait of James Lord'



his idea was to do merely a quick portrait sketch on canvas it would take about an hour or two an afternoon at most he pulled his easel into position and placed in front of it a small stool by the time we were alone it was four o'clock it's impossible I don't know how to do anything I'm going to work on this picture for another day or two and then if he doesn't turn out to be any good I'll give a painting for it when he stopped at last and the lights were turned on I saw that the head had become more elongated and vaguer than the day before after the first sitting there had been some semblance of a likeness now there was none at all several people were in the studio when I arrived now the Giacometti has become famous in the same sense of being a celebrity he has far more visitors than he used to have the afternoon passed slowly he smoked cigarettes and told stories of people he had known and of incidents that had either amused or interested him all the vagueness of the day before had disappeared the head was precise and strongly modelled but quite black the body had acquired a greater feeling of volume and some of the background had been painted in he is obliged to feel that it is necessary to start his entire career over again every day he refuses to rely on past achievement the face was less black now the features more clearly drawn and vivid the sense of space surrounding the head in the shoulders had begun to acquire depth and expressiveness to talk to his model while he is working distracts him I think from the constant anxiety this anxiety often bursts forth in the form of melancholy gasps furious expletives and occasional loud cries of rage and or distress he suffers there's no doubt of it the creative compulsion never leaves him a moment of complete peace his intensity naturally communicates itself to those around him everything has to come in its own time if I painting the body or the background just to be doing something to feel in space that would be obvious it would be false and I'd have to abandon the picture completely it did advance in spite of everything dinna D September was in its third week but the weather was mid July when Giacometti isn't at the studio he leaves a note on the door saying where he is it usually says suiza cafe Tabac Rudy doe and that is where I found him I have to destroy everything again there is nothing else to be done his mood began to grow sombre he was sitting at his usual place at the back of the cafe he exude a gloom he was working on the head doing it over and over painting a few strokes looking at me painting a few more strokes looking at me again puffing on a cigarette from time to time murmuring exclamations of disgust and despair I sat there in mobile silent perspiring I've got to destroy everything again which simply brings us back again to the fact that one cannot hope to copy nature but that's the only thing worth doing it's the only thing I'm interested in this is the moment when everything could start the head sits on the body very well now and the body consequently has more volume he took the painting from the easel and stood it as usual under the where we could study it from a distance it was superb it had never been nearly as good he agreed it's possible for me to undo the whole thing very quickly that's good because I'm beginning to know what it's all about he took the Paladin brushes and studied the painting i sat on my chair and assumed the pose in which at times it had seemed that I might be paralyzed forever I stood up went behind him and looked at the painting it was superb never before had the picture looked just as it did then and it had never looked better it's only the beginning of what it could be but that's something anyway you

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