Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts in Art History and Visual Culture



First Advisor

Jonathan Walz

Second Advisor

Melissa Elmes

Third Advisor

Trenton Olsen


The sculpture Hands Holding the Void or The Invisible Object by the Swiss artist Alberto Giacometti is one of his most iconic artworks, occupying a critical place within his oeuvre, as it is the last so called Surrealist work. This sculpture greatly excited the Surrealist group, who took it as a model of the found object, one of the artistic methods that the movement employed. However, after creating Hands Holding the Void, Giacometti abandoned Surrealism and began to make his works from live models, while remaining committed to his artistic question about representing what he was seeing. This sculpture points to something enigmatic in Giacometti’s oeuvre, as well as to a pivotal element of Surrealism. Since its creation by the young French poet André Breton, Surrealism has been defined as an artistic movement associated with love, freedom, and liberty. However, its aesthetics, experimentations, and artistic objects are frequently integrated with attributes related to the development of the traumatic, the fragmented, and the lack, and the artists were attracted to work with repetition, transcendence, and paradoxes that created instability, uncanny, and anguish. From a reading of Surrealism interconnected psychoanalytic theory and taking as a guide the sculpture of Giacometti, this work investigates an articulation between Surrealism and the notion of Real, proposed by the French psychoanalyst Jacques Lacan, and argues that Giacometti's Hands Holding the Void assumes the paradox between the object and the void, the presence and the absence, exploiting this ambivalence and acting as a veil that veils but at the same time reveal the Real. Ultimately, the sculpture reflects the Surrealist task of dealing with the impossible.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License