Home Magazine Giorgio de Chirico's revenge

Giorgio de Chirico was an Italian artist, whose early explorations into metaphysics and surrealism at the start of the 20th Century earned him a strong contemporary reputation and influenced many other famous surrealist artists, such as Yves Tanguy and René Magritte.

His personal interest in philosophy, especially the writings of Schopenhauer and Nietzsche, laid the foundations for his artistic inquiries into the subconscious, the dream-like compositions of his paintings somewhat detached from reality. His subject matter draws heavily on classical themes, often including the architecture of vaulting arches and columns, as well as human-esque figures echoing the still life of marble statues. He was born and raised in Greece, so it was during these formative years that his head was filled with the romanticised stories from antiquity, with some of the physical remnants of that past civilisation still lying around to fire up his imagination. The artist once said that he paints what he sees with his eyes closed, and this does well to sum up the inspiration behind the unique imagery used in his De Chirico paintingsDiscover more about Giorgio de Chirico on Kooness.


Giorgio De Chirico, The Melancholy of Departure, 1916























When WWI broke out, De Chirico returned home to Rome but was deemed unfit to serve in the military. Instead, he was posted to a hospital in Ferrara and here met fellow artist Carlo Carrà, whose links to the Italian Futurist movement had an invigorating effect on De Chirico, the young artist being encouraged to think outside the box. Together they founded the “Pittura Metafisica” movement, their art at this time strikingly similar to one another’s and including classic tropes such as the faceless statuettes, a superficial absence of logic to their compositions and an ominous sense of disquiet or threat that would come to permeate De Chirico’s work from then on. 

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Giorgio De Chirico, The Disquieting Muses, 1918


Carlos Carrà, L'Ovale delle Apparizioni, 1918.

















In this way, De Chirico worked in an anti-impressionist style, always keeping his figures and objects tangible and figuratively defined. The effect of aesthetically grounding his subject matter in relatable terms, with recognisable motifs and touchstones only serves to heighten the thought-provoking effect that his mystical compositions create, as instead of wondering what these objects are, the viewer instead starts to question the subject’s motivations and the internal relationships of the painting. This is a thematic style immediately apparent in René Magritte’s work, who was majorly influenced by De Chirico.


Giorgio De Chirico, The Song Of Love, 1914


















The incongruity of the objects grouped together in De Chirico’s artworks also makes them stand out all the more individually. We can see here, in his 1914 "The Song Of Love", that the seemingly ordinary courtyard setting is thrown into a quiet chaos by the head, glove and sphere that he has chosen to fill it. Individually there is nothing strange about these objects, but their enlarged scale and impossible relationship to one another makes anyone who subscribes to the rules of the painting, and who suspends their disbelief to an extent that the world within the painting becomes their reality, comes to the logical conclusion:


I must be dreaming. A paradox certainly, but only in dreams is your world as you have always known it, but with completely different rules.


As the War ended, and De Chirico felt his own artistic sensibilities mature, he fell back on his classical roots. Takings his cues from Renaissance masters like Raphael or Titian, his neo-traditional style was still visually recognisable as his previous work, but in later life he moved away from the defined school of Surrealism. Taking an example from the start of this process, in his 1922 "The Prodigal Son" the internal story to the painting is less confusing, but still with ominous undertones, a macabre creation story from master to mannequin.


De Chirico, The Prodigal Son, 1922




















This personal move away from established artistic movements was in part caused by and in part a response to his falling out with the other key players in the Surrealist movement, and whereas when he started his Metaphysical movement it was in rejection of Impressionism, now he rejected Modernism. This happened at around the same time that Andre Breton stumbled across De Chirico’s works in the early 1920s and formally founded the Surrealist movement. De Chirico visited the Surrealists in Paris, but they were not at all fond of his post-metaphysical work, and indeed his later paintings never garnered the same success as his original paintings. Perhaps this is why he removed himself from critical circles.

Nevertheless, De Chirico’s artworks will always hold a place of reverence within art history, his influence and originality paving the way for many Surrealist and Conceptual artists as: Mickael Doucet, Giuliano Sale, Diego Zangirolami.


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