In Alberto Giacometti's long and prolific career, he made the transition from early abstract sculptures rooted in Surrealism's interest in the unconscious mind to iconic elongated representations of the human figure. These distinctive late works were the result of Giacometti's working and reworking of the figure without preconceived notions about its ultimate form.
Giacometti's Walking Man I is one of the artist's most revealing sculptures, as the work attempts to integrate motion and time into a static object. In their attenuated starkness, Giacometti's melancholy figures appear to have been eaten away by the very atmosphere that surrounds them. Philosophers and historians have found great significance in Giacometti's Walking Man I as an emblem of the grim realities of the post World War II consciousness. Giacometti denied any specific reference to wartime atrocities, but he acknowledged the absurdity and fragility of human existence, saying, "Emptiness filters through Aeverywhere, each creature secretes his own void."