Hollow Man: Alberto Giacometti and the Crisis of the Monument, 1935-1946


Mellon/ACLS Dissertation Completion Fellowships


Art History


In 1935, Alberto Giacometti disavowed his abstract surrealist sculpture and set about producing miniature figurines and portrait busts—a return to figuration that, like the broader “return to order” of interwar aesthetics, has been credited to psychological, political, or economic crises. In the 1930s and 40s, this rhetoric of crisis took shape in sculptural metaphors for the political subject that molded and were molded by figurative sculpture. Reframing Giacometti’s miniatures within these emergent interactions, this dissertation argues that these sculptural and discursive figurations of crisis treat it not as a psychic or structural breakdown, but rather as the convergence of two competing models for the subject: the monument and the commodity. Through close analysis of Giacometti’s sculptures and designs alongside his contemporaries’ political and philosophical writings, it positions his miniatures in this major narrative, and identifies new frameworks for the relation of aesthetic form to political tendency.