He is called "the Egyptian," but Alberto Giacometti never was in Egypt. A Zurich show just gives him that name to focus on the intense fascination ancient Egyptian art exerted over the Swiss sculptor.
The exhibition highlights for the first time the lasting impact anonymous Egyptian craftsmen who worked millennia ago had on the work of Giacometti, one of the most outstanding figures in 20th century art.
In the Kunsthaus museum, which houses the most comprehensive collection of the artist's works, some 20 Egyptian items are placed together with almost 100 Giacometti sculptures and countless drawings.
The result is an artistic dialogue that transcends thousands of years and opens a little-known perspective on the unique style of the artist who broke with surrealism early in his career. It allows visitors of the show, which runs until May 24, to discover astounding similarities between such ancient art and Giacometti's approach in sculpturing.
Giacometti was in his late teens when he first saw samples of Egyptian art in Florence's Archeological Museum in 1920. It left him more impressed than anything else in the "city of Michelangelo." After studying more Egyptian pieces in Rome's Vatican museum, he felt convinced that such art as unsurpassable.
"For me, the most beautiful statue is neither Greek nor Roman and certainly not from the Renaissance - it is Egyptian," he wrote his parents from Rome in an enthusiastic letter. "The Egyptian sculptures have an excellence, an evenness of line and shape, a perfect technique that has never been mastered since."
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