Throwback Thursday: Spotlight on Georgio De Chirico

“Everything has two aspects: the current… and metaphysical”

Photo by Daniel von Appen on Unsplash

While looking at a very cool art blog I noticed several paintings by Giorgio de Chirico, a highly influential artist in the early modern period. I myself was attracted to his early work as were many of the budding surrealists of his own time period, men whom he influenced who went on to make names for themselves. For some reason, even though he lived close to a century, the modern art crowd seemed interested only in the strange worlds he painted in his youth.

Here is the opening of an essay about de Chirico which I stumbled upon after looking at some of his paintings.

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Giorgio de Chirico. Library of Congress.

“The case of Giorgio de Chirico is one of the most curious in art history. An Italian, born in 1888 and raised partly in Greece — where his father, an engineer, planned and built railroads — he led a productive life, almost Picassoan in length; he died in 1978. He had studied in Munich, and in his early twenties, under the spell of the Symbolist painter Arnold Böcklin, he began to produce a series of strange, oneiric cityscapes. When they were seen in Paris after 1911, they were ecstatically hailed by painters and poets from Picasso to Paul Éluard; before long de Chirico became one of the heroes of Surrealism.

Later, this essay shows how his work was often misunderstood.

“De Chirico is often said to have used Renaissance space in his pictures, but as Rubin points out, this is a myth. De Chirican perspective was not meant to set the viewer in a secure, measurable space. It was a means of distorting the view and disquieting the eye. Instead of one vanishing point in his architectonic masterpiece, The Melancholy of Departure, 1914 there are six, none “correct.”

This cloning of viewpoints acts in a way analogous to Cubism. It jams the sense of illusionary depth and delivers the surface to the rule of the flat shape, which was the quintessential modernist strategy. In color, in tonal structure and in its contradictory lighting, Rubin argues, de Chirico’s style up to 1918 “was as alien to its supposed classical, fifteenth-century models as it was dependent on the Parisian painting of its own moment.”

What amazes me to this day is how many of the artists and writers whom we encounter in museums and libraries seemed like they lived way in the past, but in reality their lives overlapped our lives and had we made an effort we might have met them, even befriended them.

Bob Dylan did that. When he first came to New York from Minnesota, he made it an aim of his to meet the legendary Woody Guthrie, who was then dying in a nursing home.

Artists, musicians, writers… they shine for a while, but many times end up forgotten. This post is a tribute is to an artist whose work spoke to me for a time, Georgio de Chirico.

Those familiar with his work will recognize from this letter to a friend how his mind invented the architectural impossibilities that hie painted:

The structure of cities, the architecture of houses, squares, gardens, public walks, gateways, railway stations, etc — all these provide us with the basic principles of a great Metaphysical aesthetic... We, who live under the sign of the Metaphysical alphabet, we know the joy and sorrows to be found in a gateway, a street corner, a room, on the surface of a table, between the sides of a box…

Here’s a page with links to many of his paintings. And here is another. Bookmark these pages so you can return to them soon.

An avid reader who writes about arts, culture, literature & other life obsessions. @ennyman3 Look for my books on Amazon

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