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Friends and artists Giacometti, by his friend Cartier-Bresson

French photographer Henri Cartier-Bresson called Swiss artist Alberto Giacometti his friend. It was a friendship that began in a Parisian café in the 1930s and lasted over 25 years. January 11 marks the 50th anniversary of Giacometti's death.

As a friend, Cartier-Bresson was granted rare access into the sculptor’s intimate world. He captured Giacometti’s portraits at his Paris studio on the rue Hippolyte-Maindron. But more personal shots were gleaned on a holiday with the sculptor and his mother at their family home in Stampa, a mountain village in southeastern Switzerland. However, this intimacy did not dull the admiration Cartier-Bresson had for Giacometti. He referred to the Swiss artist as “one of the most intelligent and lucid men I know”. 

They were alike in many ways. Both of them were early fans of surrealism. Bresson was overjoyed to learn that they were both passionate about the painters Paul Cézanne, Jan van Eyck, and Paolo Uccello. 

But their approaches to creating art were quite different. Cartier-Bresson believed that unlike a painter, a photographer was only creative during the fraction of a second when a picture is taken. 

Giacometti was born in Val Bregaglia in canton Graubünden, to which he frequently returned. His father, Giovanni, was a well-known post-impressionist painter. Giacometti died of heart disease and chronic bronchitis in Chur on January 11, 1966. A visitors’ centre, ‘Centro Giacometti’, is due to open in Val Bregaglia in 2016 and will pay tribute to the artistic family. 

Text: Anand Chandrasekhar, swissinfo.ch