The Swiss Times - Swiss News in English

“The Giacomettis: The Cosmos of the Bergell Artist Family”

The Giacometti family was more than just the impressionist Giovanni or Alberto with his famous thin sculptures. The family was its own universe, deeply rooted in the Bergell and connected to the world of cultural creators in Switzerland, Paris, and Italy. This universe is now explored in the documentary film "I Giacometti".

The Bergell, with its rugged mountains, is a landscape that is "not favored by nature", as the film states. The sun rarely shines in the valley, but the winters are long with snow and ice. Film footage of this winter landscape is blended with paintings that capture the same landscape, and tranquil piano music sets the atmosphere in which "I Giacometti" tells the story of an extraordinary family.

Stampa in the Maloja region is where Giovanni and Annetta Giacometti settled after their wedding in 1900. Here, Alberto (1901), Diego (1901), Ottilia (1904), and Bruno (1907) were born. This is where the family took root.

Father Giovanni was already an established artist, having spent time in Munich, where he made Cuno Amiet a lifelong friend, in Paris, which was the avant-garde artistic metropolis of the late 19th century, and in Rome. He returned to the Bergell, severely ill, and it became the subject of his art. He was encouraged to develop his own style by the ten-year-older Giovanni Segantini, and his marriage was arranged by Ferdinand Hodler.

Mother Annetta became the stabilizing force and authority that held the family together - a family in which all were artistically active: Annetta as a sculptor, Alberto as a painter and sculptor, Diego as a sculptor and designer, Ottilie as a seamstress and textile designer, and Bruno as an architect. And all were each other's models.

"I Giacometti" shows a family in which the connections to each other are strong; the film traces the different artistic developments. It shows a successful artist family, but in the nuances it also reveals conflict lines and family dramas. Diego's search for his own path was a concern for his parents. Ottilie, married in Geneva, died at the age of 33, just five hours after the birth of her first child. Annetta gave her blessing to Alberto's marriage to the Red Cross nurse Annette Arm, but told Diego that his love Nelly was "not the woman to marry".

In addition to scenes that recreate family life and are reminiscent of the genre of fiction film, the film uses historical recordings, shows paintings, sketches, or personal letters, and allows last personal witnesses to speak: Nelda Moggi-Negrini, once a waitress in Stampa and Alberto's model, the Bernese gallerist Eberhard W. Kornfeld, or Diego's friend Claude Delay.

The scriptwriter, director, and co-producer of "I Giacometti" is Susanna Fanzun from the Engadine. She has been working on the film since 2013, as she told the news agency Keystone-SDA. In the course of this work, she had contact with the Bündner Kunstmuseum in Chur. Until November 19, the exhibition "Alberto Giacometti. Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man" can be seen there. As in the film, it is impressively possible to experience here how the family members were each other's models, how father and son worked together and side by side.

In comparison to the exhibition, which focuses on the young Alberto Giacometti, his development from the beginnings as a twelve-year-old to his Parisian time in the 1920s, the film "I Giacometti" spans a much wider arc by taking the entire family into view over a century - an artist family, all of whom were born and raised in the Bergell, had their center of life here - and finally found their resting place here.


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