An artist who excelled in a variety of mediums, Alberto Giacometti stated that he had developed his mature style as a sculptor, in part, through the process of drawing. His best-known works are elongated bronze figures either standing or striding. Their isolation and often haunting qualities have been interpreted in Existential terms, most notably by the philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre. The figures in his signature paintings and drawings, rendered within dense webs of sketchy lines, are also enigmatic.
Giacometti created more than three hundred fifty prints, two-thirds of which appear in illustrated books and are collaborations with such friends as André Breton, Georges Bataille, and René Char. He worked in etching and lithography, mainly depicting people close to him or recording studio views of his own sculptures and paintings. His most active period as a printmaker coincided with his renewed focus on painting in the 1950s, when he received invitations from a variety of publishers, including Aimé Maeght of Paris, and Kornfeld and Klipstein of Bern.
His introduction to intaglio printmaking occurred in the early 1930s during a brief stay at Stanley William Hayter's Atelier 17 in Paris, an experimental workshop and celebrated meeting place for artists. The result was two highly distinctive and rare engravings related directly to his sculpture of the period. To make Cubist Head, Giacometti gouged sharp angles and parallel lines into a copperplate, creating in two dimensions a fractured and faceted face similar to that of his sculpture of the same title, issued in marble and in bronze in 1934. In the print Hands Holding a Void, Giacometti comments on another of his sculptures, here surrounding it in an atmospheric field of ink tone that reads as an isolating void, made even more eerie by the random markings left from pits and scratches on the copperplate.