His figures grew larger after the war—a period that saw him rapidly increase his productivity—and towards the end of his career, he would create a handful of figures that were some 3 meters tall (and entertained the idea of creating a standing woman measuring 8 meters). But Giacometti’s sculptures were generally diminutive, much smaller than life-size.
“He was interested in the fact that, with a very small sculpture, you could create the feeling of something monumental,” said Grenier. “That’s why he was putting very small heads on big bases. You have the feeling that it’s monumental, but at the same time, it’s very intimate.” Giacometti also liked the illusion of distance that this scale created—he felt he could see his subjects better from afar, and that this perspective more accurately represented the atmospheric, psychological aura that surrounds human bodies.
Whatever their size, these fraught figures were of little interest to the French art establishment. So were his austere oil paintings of human busts, subjects that are often engulfed by a somber grey space. Giacometti was recognized by existentialist writers and philosophers, like Jean-Paul Sartre, but not by Parisian museums. Fortunately, the artist was resistant to these pressures. “Giacometti didn’t mind being controversial, being out of the flow, out of the mainstream,” said Grenier. And he would ultimately be rewarded for staying true to his vision, growing a following overseas.