Magic Realism: Giorgio de Chirico

Giorgio de Chirico (July 10, 1888 – November 20, 1978)

Pre-surrealist Giorgio de Chirico a proponent of Pittura Metafisica (Metaphysical Painting) also called Magic Realism said, "To become truly immortal, a work of art must escape all human limits: logic and common sensense will only interfere. But once these barriers are broken it will enter the regions of childhood vision and dream." 

The artist that was the biggest influence on Rene Magritte and many of the Surrealists was Giorgio de Chirico. It has been reported that Magritte first viewed Italian artist De Chirico's 1914 The Song of Love in 1922 (the exact date is unknown). Here's a typical biographical statement: "Rene Magritte made one of the most important artist discoveries of his carreer in Giorgio De Chirico's pre-surrealist works (1914-1918). Rene and his friend ELT Mesens were shown a reproduction of De Chirico's The Song of Love in Les Cahiers Libres and he was so moved by the image that it moved him to tears. This provided true inspiration Magritte decided to make each of his painting a visual poem; a quality he found present in De Chirico's works."

Giorgio de Chirico- The Song of Love (1914)

Other biographers attribute the event: "Marcel Lecomte showed Magritte a reproduction of Giorgio de Chirico's painting The Song of Love (1914), and the image (above), illustrated in the Roman periodical Valori Plastici, is said to have moved him to tears. The strange juxtaposition of objects in de Chirico's work revealed to Magritte the poetic possibilities of painting, and thereafter he adopted a similar painting style." 

Because Magritte did not paint in the style until circa 1926 we can assume that the viewing of Giorgio de Chirico's painting The Song of Love took place circa 1925, not 1922 as commonly reported.

Biography of Giorgio De Chirico (July 10, 1888 – November 20, 1978)

Giorgio De Chirico was born on 10th July 1888 in Volos, the capital of Thessaly (Greece). His father Evaristo was an engineer and his mother, Gemma Cervetto, a noblewoman of Genoese origin. Two years later in Athens, his brother Andrea was born. Andrea adopted the pseudonym of Alberto Savinio in his work as a writer and musician.

During this time Giorgio, whose father always supported his passion for art, took his first drawing lessons with the Greek painter Mavrudis. And it was in Athens that De Chirico realized his first painting, entitled "Still Life with Lemons (Natura morta con limoni)". In 1906, following the death of his father, the De Chirico family moved to Germany where Giorgio attended the Academy of Fine Arts and came into contact with German artistic, literary and philosophical culture. He read Schopenauer, Nietzsche and Weininger, continued studying the Ancients and studied the art of Arnold Böcklin. In 1908 he returned to Italy and was reunited with his family; in 1910 he moved to Florence and was influenced by Giotto and primitive Tuscan painting, concentrating on a style rich in perspective layouts and constructions with arches.

It was in this way that one of his first metaphysical paintings was born: "Enigma of an Autumn Afternoon (Enigma di un pomeriggio d’Autunno)". In the summer of 1911, with his mother and his brother Alberto, he travelled to Paris where his real artistic career began, in contact with the French artistic-cultural avant-garde circles and later with the poet Guillaume Apollinaire. In the same year, thanks to help from his brother, he met Pierre Laprade, member of the jury at the Salon d’Automne, for which he exhibited three works: "Enigma of the Oracle (Enigma dell’Oracolo)", "Enigma of an Afternoon (Enigma di un pomeriggio)" and "Self-Portrait (Autoritratto)".

When another three of this works were exhibited in 1913 at the Salon des Indépendants in Paris he was noticed by Pablo Picasso and Guillaume Apollinaire, thanks to whom De Chirico became friends with Brancusi, Braque, Jacob, Soffici, Léger and Derain. In the autumn of the same year Apollinaire organised an exhibition of thirty works by the artist in his studio and wrote a review of De Chirico in "L'intransigeant" using the term "metaphysic". Magazines and newspapers published his works and praised his creative qualities. The First World War broke out in 1915 and the two brothers returned to Italy. Giorgio was assigned to the hospital in Ferrara where he had a sedentary job since he was considered unfit to work. He continued to maintain close ties with the Parisian milieu and came into contact with the Dada movement.

In 1916 he painted his famous "Hector and Andromache (Ettore e Andromaca)" and "The Disturbing Muses (Le Muse inquietanti)" and frequented Ferrara's artistic milieu: he met Filippo De Pisis and began corresponding with Carrà, whom he was to meet during a stay in military hospital. Carrà was fascinated by De Chirico's poetic world and artistic themes and painted a series of works with clear metaphysical foundations. "Metaphysical painting" was born, theorized a little later in the magazine "Valori Plastici".

In 1918 De Chirico obtained a transfer to Rome. There, he worked with the above-mentioned magazine and exhibited in the rooms of the newspaper "Epoca" together with Prampolini, Carrà and Soffici. In 1919 he presented his first personal exhibition at Anton Giulio Bragaglia's Art Gallery and published the text "We metaphysicists". That moment marked the beginning for De Chirico of an intense period of exhibitions throughout Europe, particularly in France, while considerable interest in his works also emerged in the United States. De Chirico's painting was appreciated by all the major Dadaist and Surrealist artists and also by the German artists of "Magic Realism", those of the "Bauhaus" and of the "New Objectivity".

In 1925 he married the Russian dancer Raissa Gurievich Kroll. In 1928 he held his first one man exhibition in New York at the Valentine Gallery and shortly afterwards exhibited in London. He published the novel "Hebdòmeros" in 1929. Indeed, in those years, as well as painting, he dedicated himself to writing and also to stage designing for theatrical shows and ballets. He continued to exhibit in the most important art galleries both in Europe and America and met Isabella Far, who was to become his second wife in 1952. A few months after his ninetieth birthday, on 20th November 1978, Giorgio De Chirico died in Rome. His remains are conserved in the Monumental Church of St. Francis at Ripa, in Rome.

Artistic Contributions 
That de Chirico was a poet, and a great one, is not in dispute. He could condense voluminous feeling through metaphor and association. One can try to dissect these magical nodes of experience, yet not find what makes them cohere. Early de Chiricos are full of such effects. Et quid amabo nisi quod aenigma est? ("What shall I love if not the enigma?") - this question, inscribed by the young artist on his self-portrait in 1911, is their subtext.'  

De Chirico is best known for the paintings he produced between 1909 and 1919, his metaphysical period, which are memorable for the haunted, brooding moods evoked by their images. At the start of this period, his subjects were still cityscapes inspired by the bright daylight of Mediterranean cities, but gradually he turned his attention to studies of cluttered storerooms, sometimes inhabited by mannequin. Mannequin comes from the Dutch language word manneken, literally meaning 'little man' -like hybrid figures. Rene Magritte would frequently use mannequins in his work.

Later in his life De Chirico abandoned the metaphysical style and started painting more realistically. His later paintings never received the same critical praise as did those from his metaphysical period. He thought his later classical style was better, more mature, and resented that they were not successful. He produced backdated "self-forgeries" both to profit from his earlier success, and as an act of revenge -- retribution for the critical preference for his early work. He also denounced authentic paintings from his early period, and even his own later self-forgeries, as (anonymous) forgeries.

De Chirico won praise for his work almost immediately from writer Guillaume Apollinaire, a poet, writer, and art critic. Among the foremost French poets of the early 20th century, he is credited with coining the word surrealism and writing one of the earliest works described as surrealist, the play Les ...

Raymond Georges Yves Tanguy was a surrealist painter. He was born in Paris, France, the son of a retired navy captain. One day in 1922 he saw one of De Chirico's paintings in an art dealer's window, and was so impressed by it he resolved on the spot to become an artist — although he had never even held a brush.

Other artists who acknowledged De Chirico's influence include Max Ernst, Salvador Dalí, and René Magritte. De Chirico strongly influenced the Surrealist movement.

Selected works
Flight of the Centauri, Enigma of an Autumn Afternoon and Enigma of the Oracle (1909)
Ritratto di Andrea de Chirico (Alias Alberto Savinio) (1909-1910)
Enigma of the Hour (1911)
Melanconia, The Enigma of the Arrival and La Matinèe Angoissante (1912)
The Red Tower, Ariadne, The Awakening of Ariadne, The Uncertainty of the Poet, La Statua Silenziosa, The Anxious Journey, Melancholy of a Beautiful Day, Le Rêve Transformé, and Self-Portrait (1913)
The Anguish of Departure (begun in 1913), Portrait of Guillaume Apollinaire, The Nostalgia of the Poet, L'Énigme de la fatalité, Gare Montparnasse (The Melancholy of Departure), Love Song, The Enigma of a Day, The Philosopher’s Conquest, The Child’s Brain, The Philosopher and the Poet, Still Life: Turin in Spring, Piazza d’Italia (Autumn Melancholy), The Nostalgia of the Infinite and Melancholy and Mystery of a Street (1914)
The Evil Genius of a King (begun in 1914), The Seer (or The Prophet), Piazza d’Italia, The Double Dream of Spring, The Purity of a Dream, Two Sisters (The Jewish Angel) and The Duo (1915)
Andromache, The Melancholy of Departure, The Disquieting Muses, Metaphysical Interior with Biscuits (1916)
Metaphysical Interior with Large Factory and The Faithful Servitor (both began in 1916), The Great Metaphysician, Ettore e Andromaca, Metaphysical Interior, Geometric Composition with Landscape and Factory and Great Metaphysical Interior (1917)
Metaphysical Muses and Hermetic Melancholy (1918)
Still Life with Salami and The Sacred Fish (1919)
Self-portrait (1920) 
Italian Piazza, Maschere and Departure of the Argonauts (1921)
The Prodigal Son (1922)
Florentine Still Life (c. 1923)
The House with the Green Shutters (1924)
The Great Machine (1925) Honolulu Academy of Arts
Au Bord de la Mer, Le Grand Automate, The Terrible Games, Mannequins on the Seashore and The Painter (1925)
La Commedia e la Tragedia (Commedia Romana), The Painter’s Family and Cupboards in a Valley (1926)
L’Esprit de Domination, The Eventuality of Destiny (Monumental Figures), Mobili nella valle and The Archaeologists (1927)
Temple et Forêt dans la Chambre (1928)
Gladiatori (began in 1927), The Archaeologists IV (from the series Metamorphosis), The return of the Prodigal son I (from the series Metamorphosis) and Bagnante (Ritratto di Raissa) (1929)
Illustrations from the book Calligrammes by Guillaume Apollinaire (1930)
I Gladiatori (Combattimento) (1931)
Cavalos a Beira-Mar (1932-1933)
Cavalli in Riva al Mare (1934)
La Vasca di Bagni Misteriosi (1936)
The Vexations of The Thinker (1937)
Self-portrait (1935-1937)
Archeologi (1940)
Illustrations from the book L’Apocalisse (1941)
Portrait of Clarice Lispector (1945)
Villa Medici - Temple and Statue (1945) 
Minerva (1947)
Metaphysical Interior with Workshop (1948)
Fiat (1950)
Piazza d’Italia (1952)
The Fall - Via Crucis (1947-54)
Venezia, Isola di San Giorgio (1955)
Salambò su un cavallo impennato (1956)
Metaphysical Interior with Biscuits (1958)
Piazza d’Italia (1962)
Cornipedes, (1963)
Manichino (1964)
Ettore e Andromaca (1966)
The Return of Ulysses, Interno Metafisico con Nudo Anatomico and Mysterious Baths - Flight Toward the Sea (1968) Il rimorso di Oreste, La Biga Invincibile and Solitudine della Gente di Circo (1969)
Orfeo Trovatore Stanco, Intero Metafisico and Muse with Broken Column (1970)
Metaphysical Interior with Setting Sun (1971)
Sole sul cavalletto (1972)
Mobili e rocce in una stanza, La Mattina ai Bagni misteriosi, Piazza d'Italia con Statua Equestre, La mattina ai bagni misteriosi and Ettore e Andoromaca (1973)
Pianto d’amore - Ettore e Andromaca and The Sailors’ Barracks (1974)


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