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Can a Woman Who Is an Artist Ever Just Be an Artist?

In a recent feature film about the sculptor Alberto Giacometti, we find the great man in his Paris studio, brooding over the difficulty of giving birth to his own genius. Fuming and raging, lashing out at his familiars, he is a chain-smoking wild beast being kept in cultural captivity. His growing fame brings admirers to his freezing workshop, where they wonder at his ascetic indifference to discomfort, and still more — gifted as he surely is — at his capacity for self-criticism. Not that his manhood can be in any doubt: He flaunts his ravishing young mistress before his careworn, miserable wife, who nonetheless remains his devoted slave in the fervent belief that she is the one who truly understands him. In one scene, in a fit of furious dissatisfaction, he hurls a sheaf of sketches into a flaming brazier before a group of astonished onlookers. The camera shows the horror on their faces as they watch the artworks burn, a horror it is assumed we share. It isn’t just the sight of Giacometti’s sketches going up in smoke that appalls us; it’s the fact that, to our retrospective eyes, he might as well be burning thousand-dollar bills...

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