Was Giacometti a sex freak?

Giacometti caught mumps as a teenager, inflaming his testicles. Swelling up, they then shrank, atrophying and rendering him infertile. He later blamed this case of the mumps on his impotence. It seismically shifted in his attitude to sex.

Disagreeable Object, Alberto Giacometti, Wood, 1931

A tapered dildo with eyes at one end.

The work Disagreeable Object by Giacometti has been described as a ‘tapered dildo with eyes at one end’ and ‘a smooth carved wood phallus, with a pointed and spiked tip, embodying the opposing forces of desire and menace.’

It points to his approach to sex as being both a menacing and frustrating experience. It gives an insight into how he renders the male and female forms in very different ways.

“Woman with Her Throat Cut,” from 1932.Courtesy Giacometti Foundation.

Giacometti once had fantasies of rape and murder.

At the time of creating Woman with her Throat Cut, Giacometti confessed to having fantasies of rape and murder.

It gives a glimpse into his mind in his attitude towards women, he makes a clear distinction between prostitutes and other women. There’s a delicate interplay of context where the female form oscillates between being an objects of derision to objects to worship.

Frank Horvat, Paris, Rue St-Denis, prostitute and passer-by, 1956.

Prostitutes help Giacometti climax.

Alberto Giacometti married Annette in 1949. She would become one of his principle muses. Yet it was in the arms of sex workers, that he could be sexually free. Art collector, Herbert Lust, describes his encounter with Alberto Giacometti.

“I was with a girl in a room and he was next to me, with a woman, in bed. He was strange and felt that it would be easier for him to reach orgasm if someone else was present. So I sat on the chair and was taken care of and came, and then he came in the bed right after me. It was a normal thing for him, and he did it with a lot of his friends.”

Herbert Lust goes on to explain: “Giacometti met the prostitute Caroline when he was 58 and she was in her mid-twenties. People didn’t understand their relationship; they didn’t understand that he was a helpless, naive idiot who never matured sexually. He was almost impotent, because he had an exaggerated sense of justice. He didn’t believe that sexual relations between men and women are equal in terms of the pleasure given the woman, and he was bothered by that. With a prostitute, all that was resolved, because each side was satisfied: She wanted money, not physical pleasure, and he wanted a fuck.”

Men are active, virile;
Women are passive, revered.

Asked why he treated male and female figures differently, Giacometti admitted that women seemed naturally more distant to him. His depictions of female models tend to divide along classic goddess/whore lines.

Male figures were active, on the move, pointing, directing. In part, these were influenced by his male counterparts at the time, Pablo Picasso, Jean-Paul Sartre and Samuel Beckett.

It could be said his obsessive shaping and reshaping of the human form and his self-perception of constant failure was ultimately a quest for himself to feel whole, to feel satisfied, to be fulfilled.

Alberto Giacometti: Toward the Ultimate Figure is now on at Seattle Art Museum.

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