Inside Giacometti’s studio

Giacometti painting in his Paris studio, in the foreground “La Grande Tête”, 1958

Giacometti moved to his studio at 46 Rue Hippolyte-Maindron in Montparnasse, in December 1926. Open most of the time to friends, acquaintances and even strangers who happened to knock at the door, over the years the studio acquired an almost mythical status.

With an area of twenty-three square metres and a high ceiling, the Parisian studio was extremely simple and bare. There was no running water until the late 1950s and the lighting was dim. The floor was made of cement and the roof leaked. Even later, when his more comfortable economic circumstances allowed it, Giacometti never thought of transforming or leaving this studio which was ‘the prettiest and humblest of all’.

It’s funny, when I took this studio … I thought it was tiny … But the longer I stayed, the bigger it became. I could fit anything I wanted into it.


Giacometti in the entrance of his studio, ca. 1950

[Giacometti] had said the other day to come in the afternoon, so I arrived at a little before three … The studio is … in a sort of complex… the whole place looking as if it had been thrown together with a few old sticks and a lot of chewing gum … In short, a dump.

Anyway he said come in when I knocked, and if the outside is surprising, the inside is amazing…. He turned and glanced at me, holding out his hand which was covered in clay, so I shook his wrist… He immediately resumed work, running his fingers up and down the clay so fiercely that lumps fell onto the floor

Writer and essayist James Lord

Giacometti working on the plaster sculpture for “L’homme qui marche” (“The Walking Man”), 1958
Giacometti’s trousers, covered with plaster, ca. 1960

In a charming little forgotten garden he has a studio, submerged in plaster, and he lives next to this in a kind of hangar, vast and cold, with neither furniture nor food. He works very hard for fifteen hours at a stretch, above all at night: the cold, his frozen hands – he takes no notice, he works.

Philosopher and activist Simone de Beauvoir

Detail in the studio, ca. 1951

The light that streams in is gray and dull. The over-all impression is of monochromatic grayness … The walls are gray … scratched and scribbled on as though some cave painter had tried to capture images in his cavern …

It is strange that this famous man … lives the way he does.

Editor and artist Alexander Liberman

Detail of the studio with busts and painted wall, ca. 1962
Giacometti painting in his studio, ca. 1954
Giacometti’s wife Annette (right) in the studio with a friend, ca. 1954

This ground floor studio … is going to cave in at any moment now. It is made of worm-eaten wood and grey powder … Everything is stained and ready for the bin, everything is precarious and about to collapse, everything is about to dissolve, everything is floating …

And yet it all appears to be captured in an absolute reality. When I leave the studio, when I am outside on the street, then nothing that surrounds me is true.

Novelist and playwright Jean Genet

Giacometti’s desk in his Paris studio, 1958

… And then suddenly, improbably, towards the end of the sculptor’s career, a small but sturdy tree erupted, unbidden but unopposed, through the studio wall, stretching its luscious green leaves in the grey plaster-filled air.

Art historian and curator Michael Peppiatt

Studio-view with sculptures, ca. 1955
Stairs with “Femme debout”, entrance of the studio, ca. 1962

His studio crystallized his work, personality and life into a single compact space … In the end the studio came closer to his vision than any single work or even a body of works, and certainly closer than an exhibition or book …

Art historian and curator Michael Peppiatt

Annette cleaning the studio, ca. 1954

Photographs by Ernst Scheidegger © 2017 Stiftung Ernst Scheidegger-Archiv, Zurich

Introduction written by Cecilia Braschi


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