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Arts of Europe

The MFAH collections of art created on the European continent encompass artistic styles across the time line of history, from the ancient world to the Middle Ages, and the Early Modern era to the 21st century.

© 2010 Succession Giacometti / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / ADAGP, Paris
Swiss, 1901 - 1966
Tall Figure

65 x 6 ½ x 13 ½ inches

The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston

Gift of Robert Sarnoff

Arts of Europe

Alberto Giacometti probed the material essence of sculpture, seeking to redefine the limits of perception and illusion. In the late 1930s, Giacometti began to reevaluate his representation of the human form, at first reducing and then expanding the mass and volume of his figures.

Following World War II, lone standing figures with furrowed surfaces became the primary subject of his work. By 1950 Giacometti resolved his work into three major themes he believed could express the totality of life: the standing woman, the walking man, and the portrait bust. In Tall Figure, Giacometti reduces the form of a woman to a thin line, and the viewer sees her as if reflected across a great distance. At the same time, the densely molded features suggest an almost clinically intimate examination. Yet the piece also attests to the human condition of the era. The fragile attenuation of the human form speaks to the anxiety of life in postwar Europe.