DE CHIRICO

Giorgio de Chirico (July 10, 1888 – 20 November 20, 1978), an Italian artist, who in the years before World War I, founded the scuola metafisica art movement, which profoundly influenced the surrealists. After 1919, he became interested in traditional painting techniques, and worked in a neoclassical or neo-Baroque style, while frequently revisiting the metaphysical themes of his earlier work.
De Chirico is best known for the paintings he produced between 1909 and 1919, his metaphysical period, which are characterized by 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-like hybrid figures. 

 

   
    
    
    
    
 
  
 
 

In autumn, 1919, De Chirico published an article in Valori Plastici entitled “The Return of Craftsmanship”, in which he advocated a return to traditional methods and iconography. This article heralded an abrupt change in his artistic orientation, as he adopted a classicizing manner inspired by such old masters as Raphael and Signorelli, and became an outspoken opponent of modern art.In the paintings of his metaphysical period, De Chirico developed a repertoire of motifs—empty arcades, towers, elongated shadows, mannequins, and trains among others—that he arranged to create “images of forlornness and emptiness” that paradoxically also convey a feeling of “power and freedom”. According to Sanford Schwartz, De Chirico—whose father was a railroad engineer—painted images that suggest “the way you take in buildings and vistas from the perspective of a train window. His towers, walls, and plazas seem to flash by, and you are made to feel the power that comes from seeing things that way: you feel you know them more intimately than the people do who live with them day by day.”

In 1982, Robert Hughes wrote that De Chirico “could condense voluminous feeling through metaphor and association … In The Joy of Return, 1915, de Chirico’s train has once more entered the city … a bright ball of vapor hovers directly above its smokestack. Perhaps it comes from the train and is near us. Or possibly it is a cloud on the horizon, lit by the sun that never penetrates the buildings, in the last electric blue silence of dusk. It contracts the near and the far, enchanting one’s sense of space. 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.”

In this, he resembles his more representational American contemporary, Edward Hopper: their pictures’ low sunlight, their deep and often irrational shadows, their empty walkways and portentous silences creating an enigmatic visual poetry.

For more information on Giorgio de Chirico click here.

  
    
    
 

 

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Nude Descending a Staircase, No. 2 by Marcel Duchamp

Marcel Duchamp. Nude Descending a Staircase, No. 2 (1912). Oil on canvas. 57 7/8" x 35 1/8". Philadelphia Museum of Art.

Marcel Duchamp (28 July 1887 – 2 October 1968) was a French artist whose work is most often associated with the Dadaist and Surrealist movements. Considered by some to be one of the most important artists of the 20th century, Duchamp’s output influenced the development of post-World War I Western art. He advised modern art collectors, such as Peggy Guggenheim and other prominent figures, thereby helping to shape the tastes of Western art during this period.

Duchamp challenged conventional thought about artistic processes and art marketing, not so much by writing, but through subversive actions such as dubbing a urinal art and naming it Fountain. He produced relatively few artworks, while moving quickly through the avant-garde circles of his time.

The creative act is not performed by the artist alone; the spectator brings the work in contact with the external world by deciphering and interpreting its inner qualifications and thus adds his contribution to the creative act.

Duchamp’s first work to provoke significant controversy was Nude Descending a Staircase, No. 2 (Nu descendant un escalier n° 2) (1912). The painting depicts the mechanistic motion of a nude, with superimposed facets, similar to motion pictures. It shows elements of both the fragmentation and synthesis of the Cubists, and the movement and dynamism of the Futurists.

He first submitted the piece to appear at the Cubist Salon des Indépendants, but jurist Albert Gleizes asked Duchamp’s brothers to have him voluntarily withdraw the painting, or to paint over the title that he had painted on the work and rename it something else. Duchamp’s brothers did approach him with Gleizes’ request, but Duchamp quietly refused. Of the incident Duchamp later recalled, “I said nothing to my brothers. But I went immediately to the show and took my painting home in a taxi. It was really a turning point in my life, I can assure you. I saw that I would not be very much interested in groups after that.”

He later submitted the painting to the 1913 “Armory Show” in New York City. The exhibition was officially named the International Exhibition of Modern Art, displayed works of American artists, and was also the first major exhibition of modern trends coming out of Paris. American show-goers, accustomed to realistic art, were scandalized, and the Nude was at the center of much of the controversy.