Alberto Giacometti’s (1901-1966) Diego en chemise écossaise, estimated at $30—50 million, will lead Christie’s November 5 Evening Sale of Impressionist & Modern Art in New York. This painting is among the most compelling renderings Alberto ever produced of his brother Diego, his most frequent and by now signature subject. Diego en chemise écossaise showcases the graphic drama and economy of representation that would become hallmarks of Giacometti’s painting. Diego en chemise écossaise has been in a private collection for over two decades and has never appeared at auction.

From the 1940s onwards, the human figure became the artist’s dominant vehicle of expression, notably his brother Diego and wife Annette. Giacometti focused on his family as perpetual subjects and would return to them repeatedly with renewed passion.

The present work is one of the most fully realized of all Giacometti’s portraits. The surface of the painting is rich in texture showing how he compulsively worked and re-worked his material. While Giacometti’s paintings most often utilize a grisaille palette, Diego en chemise écossaise is distinctive for its use of color, with the red of Diego’s tartan shirt, which raises this portrait to a level of complexity rarely seen in the artist’s oeuvre. The pattern of the interwoven plaid also allows Giacometti to enrich the painting with a new level of complexly charged brushwork. The portrait also employs some of Giacometti’s familiar devices; the sitter is presented with the barest of anecdotal surroundings, and he has painted a linear frame around the subject, which separates the illusion of pictorial space from the reality of the canvas’ flatness.

Christie’s London exhibition: 12-18 October
Christie’s Paris exhibition: 23-24 October
Christie’s New York exhibition: 31 October – November 5