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Wilson, L. (1999). Alberto Giacometti's Woman with Her Throat Cut: Multiple Meanings and Methodology. Ann. Psychoanal., 26:143-172.

(1999). Annual of Psychoanalysis, 26:143-172

Alberto Giacometti's Woman with Her Throat Cut: Multiple Meanings and Methodology

Laurie Wilson, Ph.D.

When artistic masterpieces are created, they usually contain an exceptionally rich lore of iconographic and formal messages. By a combination of luck and talent the artist conveys a tangle of meanings and seamlessly integrates various elements. Each part, as well as the whole, may be laced with emotional intensity, and viewers opening themselves to the impact can feel the full force of the artist's communication.

Giacometti and his surrealist colleagues subscribed to the idea that artistic form contained meaning at many different levels—aesthetic, psychological, and spiritual. Lead by André Breton and Max Ernst, men well versed in Freud's writings, the surrealists expected to find profound psychoanalytic resonance in works of art. Certain surrealist artists were considered to be exceptionally gifted at expressing emotions, conflicts and fantasies dating back to their earliest childhoods through their artwork. Giacometti was one.

Woman with Her Throat Cut (1932, Figures 1 through 4) is one of Alberto Giacometti's most renowned surrealist sculptures. In essence, it is an image of a woman who has been raped and murdered. The sculpture has been widely analyzed and was even the focus of a museum exhibition (Hall, 1980) A number of cogent art historical findings have been presented to elucidate the work and place it firmly in its historical context. By applying psychoanalytic knowledge and information garnered from a decade of research, I shall introduce new ideas that could contribute to a more complex and deeper understanding of the work and its creator.


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