Alberto Giacometti was born in Borgonovo in Val Bregaglia, Switzerland near the Italian border. His father was a painter who encouraged his son’s interest in sculpture.
Living amidst the creative community of Montparnasse, he began to associate with artists Joan Miró, Max Ernst and Pablo Picasso plus writers Samuel Beckett, Jean-Paul Sartre, Paul Eluard and André Breton and wrote and drew for his magazine Le surréalisme au Service de la Révolution. From 1935 to 1940 Giacometti concentrated his sculpting on the human head, focusing on the person's gaze. This was followed by a new and unique artistic phase in which his statues became stretched out, their limbs elongated.
During World War II, he lived in the safety of Geneva where he met Annette Arm. In 1946 he and Annette returned to Paris where in 1949 they were married. Marriage seems to have been good for him because what followed was perhaps Giacometti’s most productive period. It was his wife who provided him with the opportunity to constantly to be in touch with another human body and particularly a feminine one. Models who had posed for him found it to be a very difficult job but Annette helped him enormously, patiently sitting for him for hours on end until he achieved what he wanted.
He soon had an exhibition of his works on display at the Gallery Maeght in Paris and at the Pierre Matisse Gallery in New York City for which the catalogue preface was written by his friend Jean-Paul Sartre. By the early 1950s, the use of bronze had become economically feasible and Giacometti began to cast his works in bronze. A perfectionist, Giacometti was obsessed with creating his sculptures exactly as he visioned through his unique view of reality. To his own consternation, because of his drive for perfection, they all ended up being carved small, many no larger than a pack of cigarettes and almost as thin as nails. A friend once said that if Giacometti decided to carve you, he would make your head look like the blade of a knife. However, after his marriage, he was able to make tiny sculptures larger. But the larger that they grew, the thinner they became. Giacometti said that was the way he wanted to represent the sensation he felt when he looked at a naked woman.
In his later years, Giacometti’s creations were displayed at a number of large exhibitions throughout Europe. Riding a wave of international popularity, in 1965, despite being in poor health, he traveled to the United States for an exhibition of his works at the New York Museum of Modern Art. As his last work he prepared the text for the book "Paris sans fin," a sequence of 150 lithographs containing memories of all the places where he had lived.
Alberto Giacometti died of heart disease and chronic bronchitis at the Kantonsspital in Chur, Switzerland. His body was returned to his birthplace in Borgonovo, where he was interred close to his parents.
Today, a sculpture by Giacometi can sell for more than US$14 million.