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Les Jeux Terribles, Giorgio de Chirico, 1925

De Chirico's conception of Metaphysical art was strongly influenced by his reading of Nietzsche, whose style of writing fascinated de Chirico with its suggestions of unseen auguries beneath the appearance of things.De Chirico found inspiration in the unexpected sensations that familiar places or things sometimes produced in him: In a manuscript of 1909 he wrote of the "host of strange, unknown and solitary things that can be translated into painting ... What is required above all is a pronounced sensitivity."Metaphysical art combined everyday reality with mythology, and evoked inexplicable moods of nostalgia, tense expectation, and estrangement. The picture space often featured illogical, contradictory, and drastically receding perspectives. Among de Chirico's most frequent motifs were arcades, of which he wrote: "The Roman arcade is fate ... its voice speaks in riddles which are filled with a peculiarly Roman poetry".

In the early 1920s, the Surrealist writer André Breton discovered one of de Chirico's metaphysical paintings on display in Guillaume's Paris gallery, and was enthralled.Numerous young artists who were similarly affected by de Chirico's imagery became the core of the Paris Surrealist group centered around Breton. In 1924 de Chirico visited Paris and was accepted into the group, although the surrealists were severely critical of his post-metaphysical work.

De Chirico met and married his first wife, the Russian ballerina Raissa Gurievich (1894-1979) in 1925, and together they moved to Paris. His relationship with the Surrealists grew increasingly contentious, as they publicly disparaged his new work; by 1926 he had come to regard them as "cretinous and hostile". They soon parted ways in acrimony. In 1928 he held his first exhibition in New York City and shortly afterwards, London. He wrote essays on art and other subjects, and in 1929 published a novel entitled Hebdomeros, the Metaphysician. Also in 1929, he made stage designs for Sergei Diaghilev.

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