sculptor giacometti walking in his studio with his walking man sculptures, 1961 by Henri Cartier-Bresson

From the Unesco Art Collection website:

Alberto Giacometti created a filiform and stylized figure, whose limbs seem to stretch out endlessly, as a symbol of the human being. A combination both of strange fragility and strong determination is expressed in this unrealistic figure.

Impenetrable yet disconcerting, Giacometti’s male figure has no individualized aspect; he is depicted only with his strangely uneven skin. Because of the lack of specific identification on his face, this figure exalts a universal impact which exerts an intriguing fascination on the spectator. Through this sculpture, Giacometti managed to capture the decisive moment where a man reveals an internal strength which stems from his own energy and momentum.

Alberto Giacometti’s walking man does not ask himself any questions; he simply comes from somewhere and is on his way elsewhere. His gaze fixed on the horizon, he strides decisively, forward in order to discover, to understand, as if he has a goal to pursue. With an awakened conscience, he travels through time to observe the world. His feet, anchored in the ground, connect him inevitably to the earth with which he is one. It is the whole body which here moves through an oblique force, towards a future to be created.

Artist biography
Born in 1901, the Swiss sculptor and painter Alberto Giacometti was the son of the Impressionist painter Giovanni Giacometti. He studied at the School of Arts and Crafts in Geneva before settling down in Paris in 1922, where he joined the Surrealist Movement from which he was excluded in 1934. He exhibited his first works in 1927, and organized his first individual exhibition in 1932. These early works were strongly influenced by primitive African art. Works dating from the Cycladic Period (3200- 2880 BC) and which are built around the individual-object were also a source of inspiration. One can find these influences manifested in Giacometti’s “Femme à la cuillère” (spoon woman) from 1926. His ‘couples’ were also inspired by African statuettes, whose elongated faces are shaped like masks. By the late 1930s, Giacometti’s sculptures were mostly dominated by a rather pronounced sense of violence that illustrated itself in sculptures of ‘women with cut throats’ or in abstract images of ‘rapes’. The 1940s were for him an intermediary period during which he created sculptures that got progressively smaller, reaching 1 to 2 cm. Following this short period, he changed direction, working on the elongated and skeletal figures we associate today with Giacometti. His reputation grew during the 1950s and his work exhibited in numerous institutions in New York, London, Berlin … He received several awards, such as the Grand Prize for Sculpture at the Venice Biennial in 1962. In 1965, the year preceding his death, he was awarded the French national Grand Prize for the Arts.