CHIRICO Giorgio de
The work of Chirico is divided into four periods. The first is that of large urban landscapes inspired by the paintings of Paolo Uccello and Piero della Francesca. The second period, known as the GermanoItalian, shows the influence of Munich Symbolism. On his return to Paris in 1924 he took an active part in the Surrealist movement. His Surrealist period extends from 1924 to 1929. In 1946 he exhibited a significant ensemble of his work at the Galerie Maeght.
Born at Volo ( Greece) July 10, 1888 of an Italian family; his father was originally from Palermo and his mother from Genoa. Several years later, his family having settled in Athens, Chirico studied at a polytechnic school where both painting and engineering were taught. He devoted himself to painting and did landscapes and seascapes. In 1906 he went to Munich, attracted by the prestige of the German romantic painters (and Arnold Boecklin in particular). On completion of his studies, in 1909, he went to Italy. In Italy he follows no school of art but copies the Old Masters in the museums. Turin amazed him with its rectilinear architecture, adorned with statues placed at man's height, which seemed to rise from the crowds of passers-by. In 1910 Chirico moved to Florence, where he painted his first characteristic works: Enigma of the Oracle and Enigma of an Autumn Evening. in which two people part at the foot of a white statue while, behind a wall, a sail rises on the horizon. In July 1911 he arrived in Paris with his canvases Sabaudian Enigmas, which he exhibited at the Salon d'Automne. At the Salon des Indépendants he also showed the first works inspired by the Gare Montparnasse in Paris. These were noticed by Picasso and Apollinaire. Apollinaire became his friend and proclaimed him the most astonishing painter of his time. Chirico made a prophetic portrait of the poet, depicting him with a bullethole in his skull. In the works of this period Chirico strove to discover new relationships between objects, to reveal the secret connections that can exist between them. His unusual associations of images and ideas arouse in the spectator a feeling of subdued but profound anxiety. Flying lines cut the immobility of space, absent people throw shadows. Silence vibrates, waiting for the cry or whistle that will rend it. Around these cold, pure architectures the air is charged with mystery and invention. A spatial magic is created. Chirico's objects, plaster statues or heads, vegetables or fruit, and (later) dressmaker's dummies, rubber gloves and dry biscuits, are all represented with absolute indifference. They are so impersonal that they lose all their natural meaning. Their grouping -- which owes nothing to chance but is the result of systematic experimentation -- creates limitless possibilities of elusiveness and mystery. According to his friends, Chirico had at this time prophetic and visionary powers, powers consciously created, the product of a method which he later repudiated. Back in Italy at the outbreak of war Chirico was conscripted in 1915, at Ferrara, where he met Carlo Carrà. The architecture of this town, with its vast white, deserted perspectives, was particularly favourable to hallucination. What is termed Metaphysical Painting arose from the combination of the world he had already created and this new setting. The metaphysical aspect of landscapes, objects or beings is the meaning they acquire when seen suddenly in unusual isolation or in unexpected relationships, or when seized in their nakedness, with their magical power intact. The painter made an obvious effort to define and characterize his art, and then to develop it in that metaphysical sense. That is why it soon betrayed an excess of intentions, not always clear or coherent. That probably is the origin of the crisis that destroyed the artist and his work. The composition was complicated with numerous and divergent perspectives; the dissonances between the different parts of the picture were emphasized. The picture was soon crowded with fragments of reality painted in trompe l'il.
Chirico had in enormous success at the L'Epoca exhibition in Rome in 1918. He was one of the leaders of the Valori Plastici group in 1919. While in Rome he plunged into technical researches which are, perhaps, at the root of the radical change that occurred in his work. He experimented with various old processes of painting in tempera, and, haunted by the transparent colours of the masters, tried to solve the mystery of great painting by copying Raphael, Michelangelo and Botticelli. Chirico's metaphysical universe is close to the universe of dreams, where the extraordinary precision of the details results in a new reality, secret and unpredictable. Perspective is no longer the search for the ideal line of sight, but a steep short cut leading straight into the inexplicable. The strangely grouped objects give the same bizarre sensation as the clear images of a dream. When there is a human figure, it is in the form of a clothed or plaster statue, or an articulated dressmaker's dummy. Chirico never let himself be guided by the contingencies of psychic automatism, or the dictates of his feelings: his creatures are rigorously sexless. His evolution was so rapid that when he returned to France in 1924 he was already far from the Surrealists who welcomed him as a master and made him join in their first exhibition. He executed décors for the Ballets Suédois and the Monte Carlo Ballet. He presented new themes (horses and gladiators) in a new kind of painting in which he seemed to have retained only the semblance of his former gifts. His works founder in literature and academism, and only his novel in the form of a dream, Hebdomeros, published in 1929, reflects the grandiose visions of the Chirico of old. After 1930 he broke brutally and violently with his past, disowned his friends and former works, and immersed himself in a feverish and frenzied exploration of empty techniques.