The Italian Surrealism of Giorgio de Chirico

Giorgio de Chirico: an exhibition that follows the unique career of the Pictor Optimus

We live in a phantasmic world, to which we gradually accustom ourselves. (G. de Chirico, 1918)
After almost fifty years since de Chirico’s last personal exhibition in 1970, Milan finally hosts the artist’s works again in an extraordinary retrospective. An exhibition made up of unprecedented comparisons and original combinations that reveal the phantasmic world of one of the most complex artistic figures of the 20th century.

Giorgio de Chirico, Orfeo trovatore stanco, 1970, oil on canvas 149 x 147 cm Roma, Fondazione Giorgio e Isa de Chirico © Giorgio de Chirico by SIAE 2019

The exhibition is key to understanding a hermetic style of painting that has its roots in the painter’s childhood in Greece, matures in the Paris of the avant-gardes, gives life to the Metaphysics, which bewitched the surrealists and fascinated Andy Warhol, and that, finally, mystifies with his irreverent, ironic reinterpretations of the Baroque era.

The collaboration of several prestigious international, national and local museums and institutions – including the Tate Modern of London, the Metropolitan Museum of New York, the Centre Pompidou and the Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville of Paris, the National Gallery of Modern and Contemporary Art of Rome, the Peggy Guggenheim Collection of Venice, and the Museo del Novecento, the Boschi Di Stefano House Museum, the Brera Art Gallery, and Villa Necchi Campiglio, in Milan – ensured the reconstruction of this broad and complete retrospective, dedicated to one of the artists who, through his work and his figurative language revolution, made such a strong impact in the Italian and international collective image of Twentieth century art.

Giorgio de Chirico: L’incertezza del poeta, 1913, oil on canvas 106 x 94 cm, Londra, Tate Modern ©Tate, London 2018 © Giorgio de Chirico by SIAE 2019.
Giorgio de Chirico: Il saluto dell’amico lontano, (Le salut de l’ami lointain), 1916, oil on canvas 48,2 x 36,5cm Verona, Collezione Carlon, Palazzo Maffei © Giorgio de Chirico by SIAE 2019.

The exhibition is almost a dialogue, a communication channel between the artist and his audience: it features a highly sophisticated language, made of shadows, enigmas and fascination, which manages to be, at the same time, innovative and lucid enough to eliminate any barrier to the enjoyment of the work itself. The paintings do not follow a sterile chronological order, but they come together according to a figurative flow of consciousness, which tells the story of the artist’s Stimmung through his family background, his metaphysical revelation and his inexhaustible philosophical investigation based on dialogue, from which his spirits, visionary squares, gladiators, and endocentric mannequins take shape. The sequence of the works does not forget the artist’s baroque period, usually overlooked by the critics, in which his poetic lyricism blends with the technique evoked by the thick brushstrokes full of pictorial matter. Muses, Argonauts, archaeologists, mannequins, philosophers, prodigal sons, gladiators, horses… They all come to life and accompany the visitors through the exhibition, inviting them to look at de Chirico’s paintings with new “tools” and new “eyes”, to notice every detail, managing to confirm the vitality and innovation of his art, which has influenced the visual culture of the Twentieth century and whose language is, today more than ever, still relevant.

Giorgio de Chirico Ariadne, 1913, oil and graphite on canvas,, 135,3 x 180,3 cm New York, The Metropolitan Museum of Art Lascito di Florene M. Schoenborn, 1995 © Giorgio de Chirico by SIAE 2019.

The exhibition is divided into eight rooms, each proposing different themes ranging from de Chirico’s biographical background to his constant wandering, which became one of the main themes of his art. His history of constant uprooting actually allowed him to unify all the different parts of his background and to create connections within the cultured and literary Mediterranean civilizations, combining his Italian and Hellenic roots with the German culture of the late Nineteenth century. The Parisian period of the first decade of the Twentieth century, his proximity to the Cubist artistic movements and the sense of not belonging to the artistic currents of the time created their own form of avant-garde, which is in fact de Chirico’s Metaphysics. During this period, some of the most original themes in the artist’s work make their appearance, including his mannequins, which sometimes take the appearance of astronomers. The exhibition ends with a room dedicated to Neometaphysics, focused on the production of replicas – something that the painter had already started in the 1920s – which now reveals itself in all its conceptual strength.

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