de Chirico Giorgio
(Greece 1888 - Italy 1978)
- Historic artist
- Included in the most important museum collections around the world
- Among the greatest Italian masters of the 20th Century
- Included in major Biennals and Quadriennals
- High auction record ($ 15.9m Sotheby’s)
Giuseppe Maria Alberto Giorgio de Chirico was born on 10 July 1888 in Volos, Greece, to Italian parents. His father Evaristo came from a noble family of Sicilian origin and was a railway engineer in charge of the construction of the Thessaly railway. His mother Gemma Cervetto came from a family of Genovese origin. After several years of ill health, his father died in May 1905 at the age of 62. In September 1906, a year after his father’s death, his mother decided to leave Greece with her sons. After two short stopovers in Venice and Milan, the family settled in Munich where Giorgio attended the Academy of Fine Arts. Giorgio studied the art of Arnold Böcklin and Max Klinger, and read the works of Nietzsche, Schopenhauer and Weininger with great interest. In June 1909, he joined his mother and brother in Milan. He painted Böcklin-inspired paintings during this period.
In March 1910, the family moved to Florence where their paternal aunt and uncle lived. As de Chirico would later write in his Memoirs: “My health grew worse in Florence. Sometimes I painted small canvases. The Böcklin period had passed and I had begun to paint subjects in which I tried to express the strong and mysterious feeling I had discovered in Nietzsche’s writings: the melancholy of beautiful autumn afternoons in Italian cities”. He painted his first metaphysical paintings entitled The Enigma of the Oracle, The Enigma of an Autumn Afternoon, The Enigma of the Hour as well as the famous self-portrait inscribed with the Nietszchean epigraph “Et quid amabo nisi quod aenigma est?” (And what shall I love, if not that which is enigma?). On 14 July 1911, he arrived in Paris, where he developed the Italian Piazza theme. In the autumn of 1912, he showed his work for the first time at Salon d’Automne. In March 1913, he exhibited at Salon des Indépendants. Picasso and Apollinaire took notice of his work. Apollinaire, who greatly admired his paintings, wrote a review of the exhibition the artist held in his studio in October in L’Intransigeant. He defined de Chirico as “the most surprising painter of the young generation”. He met Paul Guillaume, his first dealer, as well as Ardengo Soffici, Constantin Brancusi, Max Jacob and André Derain. He started work on the Mannequin theme.
In May 1915, de Chirico and his younger brother Andrea, who changed his name to Alberto Savinio in 1914, returned to Italy. Giorgio started painting the first works on the Metaphysical Interior theme. During the same period, he painted The Great Metaphysician, Hector and Andromache, The Troubadour and The Disquieting Muses. In 1916, he met Filippo de Pisis who was just 20 years old at the time. He came into contact with the Dada circle of Tristan Tzara and the magazine Dada 2.
De Chirico moved to Rome on 1 January 1919. In February, he held his first solo show at Casa d’Arte Bragaglia in Rome. His essay entitled Noi Metafisici was published in Cronache d’Attualità. During this period, his interest in the work of the Great Masters intensified. He became a frequent visitor of museums in Rome and Florence and studied tempera and panel painting techniques in Florence. In 1921, he held a solo show at Galleria Arte in Milan. He began corresponding with André Breton the same year. He published articles on Raphael, Böcklin, Klinger, Previati, Renoir, Gauguin and Morandi in various periodicals. In 1922, an important exhibition of his work was held at Galerie Paul Guillaume in Paris which included 55 works. Breton wrote the introduction to the accompanying catalogue. In 1923, Paul Éluard and his wife Gala visited de Chirico whilst in Rome for the II Roman Biennial and purchased several of his paintings. He participated in the XIV Venice Biennial. During 1924 in Rome, he met his wife-to-be, the Russian ballerina and future archaeologist Raissa Gourevitch Krol. At the end of the year in Paris he designed the stage sets and costumes for Pirandello’s La Giara with music by Alfredo Casella for the Swedish Ballet Company. Rêve was published in the first issue of La Révolution Surréaliste, whilst he was immortalised by Man Ray in a famous group portrait. He settled permanently in the French capital in 1925.
He began work on the Metaphysics of Light and Mediterranean Myth themes, creating subject matter such as the Archaeologists, Horses by the Seashore, Trophies, Landscapes in a Room, Furniture in the Valley and the Gladiators. Following a solo show at Galerie Léonce Rosenberg. De Chirico made the acquaintance of Albert C. Barnes, who would become an avid patron of his work. He designed the costumes for Le Bal produced by Serge Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes (Monte Carlo, Paris and London). He exhibited in Italy and abroad in Paris, Berlin, Hamburg, Amsterdam, Brussels, London and New York.
During this period, he painted still lifes, portraits and female nudes of a luminous naturalism. In the autumn 1930, he met Isabella Pakszwer (later known as Isabella Far) who became his second wife and remained his life-long companion. De Chirico and Isabella moved to Florence where they stayed for a year. He exhibited at the XVIII Venice Biennial in the gallery dedicated to Italian artists in Paris. In 1933, he participated in Milan’s V Triennial for which he painted the monumental fresco La cultura italiana. He continued his work for the theatre, creating the set designs and costumes for I Puritani by Bellini for I Maggio Musicale Fiorentino (1933) and the set designs for D’Annunzio’s La figlia di Jorio directed by Pirandello at Rome’s Teatro Argentina. In 1935, he participated in the II Roman Quadrennial with 45 paintings of which seven from this new theme.
In August 1936, he went to New York where he exhibited his recent work at the Julien Levy Gallery. A number of paintings were bought by Albert C. Barnes for his museum as well as by other art collectors. The artist collaborated with magazines such as Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar. He also executed a mural entitled Petronius and the Modern-day Adonis in Tails for the tailor Scheiner and decorated a wall at Helena Rubinstein’s beauty institute. He designed a dining room for Decorators Picture Gallery, in an initiative in which Picasso and Matisse also participated.
He exhibited in Rome’s III Quadrennial d’Arte Nazionale. During the war, a Florentine antiquarian and friend, Luigi Bellini, hosted de Chirico and Isabella. In 1944, he settled permanently in Rome. In 1945, he published the autobiographies: Memorie della mia vita [The Memoirs of Giorgio de Chirico] and 1918-1925 - Ricordi di Roma. He intensified research on the great masters and executed a number of pastiches of paintings by Rubens, Delacroix, Titian, Watteau, Fragonard and Courbet.
In 1947, he set up studio in an apartment located at 31 Piazza di Spagna, in Rome, where moved the following year and spent the rest of his life. At the end of 1948, he was elected an honorary member of the Royal Society of British Artists. In 1949, he held a solo show with the prestigious society. He illustrated Manzoni’s The Betrothed in 1965 and Quasimodo’s translation of The Iliad in 1968. At the end of the 1960s, he began to cast bronze sculptures.
The 80-year-old artist could work freely once more following a period in which his time had been occupied with filling art commission contracts. He began a phase of research known as Neometaphysical Art, in which he re-elaborated subject matter from his painting and graphic work of the 1910s, 1920s and 1930s. Subjects such as The Mannequin, The Troubadour, The Archaeologists, The Gladiators, The Mysterious Baths and The Sun on the Easel were interpreted in a different light with brighter colours and serene atmospheres compared to the disquieting mood seen in his early metaphysical period. With profound poetry, new combinations of subjects appeared within the innovative spatial compositions such as the Italian Piazza and the Metaphysical Interior, newly inhabited by mythological characters such as Minerva and Mercury.
In 1970, an important retrospective of the artist’s work was held at Palazzo Reale in Milan. In 1971, Claudio Bruni Sakraischik began publishing the Catalogo generale di Giorgio de Chirico [Catalogue of Works]. The following year, De Chirico by de Chirico was held at the New York Cultural Center including 182 works from the artist’s collection including paintings, drawings, sculptures and lithographs. De Chirico travelled to New York for the occasion. In 1973, he created the Mysterious Baths Fountain in Milan’s Sempione Park for the XV Triennial. The same year, he travelled to Greece where the documentary, Il mistero dell’infinito was filmed for RAI television. In November 1974, he was elected to the Academy of France.
On 20 November 1978, Giorgio de Chirico died in Rome at 90 years of age. In 1992, his remains were transferred to the San Francesco a Ripa church, located in the Trastevere quarter of Rome.
(an extract from artist's official website: https://fondazionedechirico.org/)