Alberto Giacometti was born son of the neo-impressionist painter Giovanni Giacometti in the Swiss town of Borgonovo on October 10, 1901. He begins his art studies at the école des Beaux-Arts and the école des Arts Industriels in Geneva in 1919. Three years later he goes to Paris, where he attends the sculpting class of Antoine Bourdelle at the Académie de la Grande Chaumière until 1925.
He starts his first studio together with his brother in Paris in 1925. His sculpting style becomes more lavish and spacious, following the post-cubist sculptures of, for example, Jacques Lipchitz and Constantin Brancusi. As of 1925 he finds inspiration in plastic art of primitive people, as can be observed on the torso from 1925.
He executes the "Plates" as of 1926 - flat figures in form of thin slices, for instance the work Femme-cuiller from 1926-27, with an almost smooth and even surface, he also uses gypsum and marble for these objects that call the attention of the Paris circle of surrealists. He joins them for some time, also showing works in their exhibitions, until they break up in 1934. During this period he makes a lot of surrealist plastics and also drawings.
In the second half of the 1930s Alberto Giacometti works a lot on studies of heads. His figures get smaller and smaller in size, sometimes they are not bigger than just a few centimeters, but painting remains a just as important means of artistic expression for him. He and his brother Diego earn a living by making designs for lamps and furniture for the Parisian interior architect Jean-Michel Frank.
Alberto Giacometti spends the war years from 1939 to 1945 in Geneva. After the war he returns to Paris where he starts to create bronze objects that are thin and elongated, almost appearing as if they were without weight and inertia, their meager impression is increased by the contrast with the rather compact bases that Giacometti places them on. Alberto Giacometti finds his own unmistakable style, giving his figures a maximum in expression by reducing and densifying them. The relation between figure and space becomes the central issue of his artistic work.
His first one-man show takes places at the Pierre Matisse Gallery in New York in 1948, in which he presents the skinny figures. The exhibition is a major success and marks his breakthrough.
The series of 150 lithographs titled "Paris sans fin" is made from 1958 to 1965. His oeuvre of paintings comprises numerous portraits of his brother, his wife and friends, but also still lifes, landscapes and studio pictures. Just as with his sculptures, the predominant theme of his paintings is the relation between the slim object and space.
Alberto Giacometti dies in Chur on January 11, 1966.