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Giorgio de Chirico and the Metaphysical Painting

"To become truly immortal a work of art must escape all human limits: logic and common sense will only interfere. But once these barriers are broken it will enter the regions of childhood vision and dream."

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To become truly immortal a work of art must escape all human limits: logic and common sense will only interfere. Once these barriers are broken it will enter the regions of childhood visions and dreams.

 

The Enigma of an Autumn Afternoon (Original title: L’Énigme d’un après-midi d’automne), 1910, Oil on canvas, 45 x 60 cm. Private collection, ©Fondazione Giorgio e Isa de Chirico.

The Enigma of an Autumn Afternoon (Original title: L’Énigme d’un après-midi d’automne), 1910, Oil on canvas, 45 x 60 cm. Private collection, ©Fondazione Giorgio e Isa de Chirico.

 

Logic must not speak: visions must. The visionary art of de Chirico, known for his mannequins and dreamlike atmospheres, is not a sterile attention to form, but a constant research for a revelation through it. 

Born in Volos, Greece, in 1888 from Italian parents (his father being a Sicilian railroad engineer and his mother a wealthy Genoan woman), de Chirico always aimed toward an international artistic and cultural confrontation. As the inventor of the Metaphysical painting, de Chirico deeply inspired the Surrealist movement and – later on – fascinated artists like Warhol, Lichtenstein, and Pascali.  

De Chirico was a regular visitor of the museums of Rome and Florence, executing a number of pastiches of works of the Italian masters. He and other artists co-founders of the Metafisica looked back at the Renaissance masters, such as Giotto, Piero della Francesca, Paolo Uccello, as a sort of antidote to war’s disintegration, causing the Metafisica to result into a counter-modernist trend. In de Chirico’s works the silence of forms prevails over the noise of the Futurism.

 

Le Muse inquietanti, 1917, 97 × 67 cm, oil on canvas. Private collection, Milan. ©Fondazione Giorgio e Isa de Chirico.

Le Muse Inquietanti, 1917, 97 × 67 cm, oil on canvas. Private collection, Milan. ©Fondazione Giorgio e Isa de Chirico.

 

 

What is stunning about this Italian artist is his masterly combination of the classical taste with modern anxiety, resulting in a powerful sense of misplacement. The trait d’union of the Metaphysical painting – which anticipated somehow the Surrealist movement – was the apparently random juxtaposition of objects and memories onto the canvas. In de Chirico’s case, these are references to his father’s work (the triangle, the work tools, the locomotives) and the views on the piazzas he remembered from Florence – Piazza Santa Croce inspired his The Enigma of an Autumn Afternoon, whose perspective seems to come from an observation point on the first floor of a palace.

As the art critic Daverio writes, “for De Chirico, the artist was like a vaticinator, who leads people to understand matters that they would otherwise not understand.” De Chirico’s visions aimed to stimulate an act of reasoning in the viewer, as in a symbolist paintings: anxiety and harmony have never been so close in art history.

Form seems to be the only certainty within the years of anguish. Even if a sense of disquiet is present as an omen, classical images dive into a symbolism of forms: the condition of man is eternalized. The viewer is ready for a revelation.

After earning a BA in Art History (with concentration on modern and contemporary art) she realized her deep interest in museum studies while attending the MA in Visual Arts and Curatorial studies in Milan. Her research is focused on the cultural dynamics of museums and public collections and on their capacity of creating critical spirit within different audiences.

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