Review of Two Brothers, Four Hands: The Artists Alberto and Diego Giacometti

Two Brothers, Four Hands: The Artists Alberto and Diego Giacometti
by Jan Greenberg and Sandra Jordan; illus. by Hadley Hooper
Primary, Intermediate    Porter/Holiday    64 pp.    g
4/19    978-0-8234-4170-9    $21.99
e-book ed.  978-0-8234-4224-9    $16.99

Experts at accessibly describing art and exploring the often-complex lives of its creators, Greenberg and Jordan (most recently Meet Cindy Sherman, rev. 11/17) present a picture-book biography of twentieth-century Swiss-born artists Alberto and Diego Giacometti, whose relationship inside and out of the studio is distilled in this volume’s title. After struggling for years, sculptor Alberto found fame for his tall, spindly bronze figures such as those in his Walking Man series, while Diego (who later become known for his furniture designs but who considered himself “merely a craftsman”) tirelessly worked to support his brother’s art. The book touches on events in the siblings’ lives in snapshot-like sections (denoted by dates) that nevertheless provide strong impressions. As children, rough-and-tumble Diego does artistic-dreamer Alberto’s chores; during WWII, Diego guards their studio in war-torn Paris; as Alberto’s fame crescendos, Diego builds sculpture bases, labors on patinas, etc., “until his picky brother nods approval.” The text also offers lyrical descriptions of the artwork itself: “Alberto’s skeletal, lonely figures are survivors. They rise up courageously from these ruins of war”; Diego makes “furniture so magical that one sees sculpture and forgets its function.” Hooper’s (The Iridescence of Birds, rev. 11/14) art, in paint and ink and finished digitally, is cohesive yet strikingly dynamic; see the final vignette of the two brothers together casting long, skeletal shadows recalling Alberto’s famous style. Back matter respectfully guides readers through looking at Walking Man II; photos, source notes, a timeline, and a bibliography are included.

From the March/April 2019 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

Katrina Hedeen

Katrina Hedeen is former managing editor and projects editor for The Horn Book, Inc.

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