Alberto’s father, Giovanni Giacometti, was a reputed Swiss Neo-Impressionist painter and engraver. He transformed the old stable adjoining the family home in Val Bregaglia into a studio that was shared by his son during his childhood and adolescence. Alberto took over the studio when his father died, and although he was then already living in Paris, he went back there every summer to visit his mother and other relatives. Occasionally, he would also go to Stampa in the winter. The size, brightness, comfort, and order of this studio made a striking contrast with the tiny, poor, gray, cluttered space of the Paris atelier. Between the pinewood walls of the Stampa studio, Giacometti concentrated on drawing and painting, although he also made sculptures in plaster and clay. Through the windows, the artist could see the imposing mountains and wooded landscape of Val Bregaglia, which he would often draw and paint. His attention was drawn especially by the trees, in whose forms he found great similarities with human beings.

There, in the 1940s, Giacometti started regularly doing portraits of his mother, Annetta, a woman with a strong personality. Annette Arm, who the artist married in 1949, also became his habitual model, and would pose patiently for hours both in the studio and in the living-room of the family home in Stampa, and also in the different places she went to with the sculptor.

When working, Giacometti was very meticulous about maintaining the position of each sitter and the distance between the artist and the model. The floor of the Stampa studio was therefore full of marks, which were never removed, indicating the exact position of the legs of each model’s chair, his own stool, and the easel. In this way, the artist made sure that on successive days, or the following year if he had not finished the piece during his stay, he could resume the work at exactly the same distance and position.

What makes the Stampa atelier special is that it is both a family home and an artistic space that was shared for years by father and son, and to which the artist later returned to visit his mother and continue his creative work. Among the most outstanding pieces he produced there are some of his gray paintings. “If I see everything in gray,” he said, “and in that gray the multitude of all the colors I feel and would like to display, then why use another color?”

Alberto Giacometti painting a portrait of Annette in the Stampa studio, 1954
Photo: Ernst Scheidegger
© Ernst Scheidegger
Collection Fondation Giacometti, Paris