copertina sidebar 14-16

 

Biography

1888-1905
Giuseppe Maria Alberto Giorgio de Chirico was born on 10 July 1888 in Volos, Greece, to Italian parents. His father, Evaristo de Chirico, who came from a noble family of Sicilian origin, was a railway engineer in charge of the construction of the Thessaly railway. His mother, Gemma Cervetto, came from a family of Genovese origin. In 1891, his elder sister Adelaide died. In August, his brother Andrea (who changed his name to Alberto Savinio in 1914) was born in Athens. In 1896, the family returned to Volos where they stayed until 1899 and where Giorgio took his first drawing lessons. They returned to the capital, where Giorgio attended the Athens Polytechnic from 1903-1906. After several years of ill health, his father died in May 1905 at the age of 62.
Giorgio de Chirico, 1907 ca.

1906-1909

In September 1906, 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 whilst Andrea studied music. 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. He suffered from severe intestinal illness brought about by the death of his father.

1910-1915

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 painting entitled The Enigma of an Autumn Afternoon, inspired by a vision he had in Piazza Santa Croce. Prior to this painting, he executed The Enigma of the Oracle and later, 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, Giorgio 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 held at Grand Palais. 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”. In January 1914, the two began to collaborate with one another, as seen in the artist’s letters to the poet. De Chirico introduced his brother Savinio to Apollinaire at the end of January. The two attended Les Soirées de Paris together. He met Paul Guillaume, his first dealer, as well as Ardengo Soffici, Constantin Brancusi, Max Jacob and André Derain. He painted his well-known Portrait of Apollinaire; the following year the poet dedicated the poem Océan de Terre to him. He started work on the Mannequin theme.

1915-1918

In May 1915, de Chirico and Savinio returned to Italy to report to the military authorities in Florence and were sent to Ferrara. De Chirico, assigned to non-combat duty, remained in Ferrara where he painted 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. In 1917, he spent a few months at the Villa del Seminario military hospital for nervous disorders where Carlo Carrà had also been admitted. He came into contact with the Dada circle of Tristan Tzara and the magazine “Dada 2”. He remained in touch with the Parisian milieu and continued to send his artwork to Paul Guillaume, who held an innovative exhibition on 3 November 1918 during which he presented the artist’s paintings on-stage at Théâtre du Vieux-Colombier accompanied by an introductory text written by Savinio. Apollinaire passed away on 9 November 1918. The essay Zeusi l’esploratore came out in the first issue of “Valori Plastici”, dedicated to the magazine’s founder Mario Broglio. In the essay, he proclaimed: “It is necessary to discover the demon in all things. […] It is necessary to discover the eye in all things. […] We are explorers ready for new departures”.

1919-1924

De Chirico moved to Rome on 1 January 1919, from where he maintained an intense correspondence with his fiancée Antonia Bolognesi, whom he met in the autumn of 1917 in Ferrara and intended to marry. The relationship came to an end in December 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” in which he wrote: “Schopenhauer and Nietzsche were the first to teach the profound importance of the non-sense of life and how such non-sense can be transferred to Art […]. The capable and new craftsmen are philosophers who have surpassed philosophy”. During this period, his interest in the work of the Great Masters intensified. He became a frequent visitor of museums in Rome and Florence, executing a number of pastiches of works of the Italian Masters. He 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. In Paris, he designed the stage sets and costumes for Pirandello’s La Giara with music by Alfredo Casella for the Swedish Ballet Company at Théâtre des Champs-Elysées. 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.

1925-1929

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, his recent work was heavily criticised by the Surrealists. By this time, his rupture with the group was definitive and destined to worsen in the years to come. De Chirico made the acquaintance of Albert C. Barnes, who would become an avid patron of his work. In 1928, Jean Cocteau’s Le Mystère Laïc – Essai d’étude indirecte was published with lithographs by the artist and Piccolo Trattato di Tecnica Pittorica was published by Scheiwiller. In 1929, Pierre Levy’s Éditions du Carrefour published Hebdomeros, le peintre et son génie chez l’écrivain. He designed the costumes for Le Bal produced by Serge Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes (Monte Carlo, Paris and London). In the meantime, he exhibited in Italy and abroad (Paris, Berlin, Hamburg, Amsterdam, Brussels, London and New York).

1930-1935

During this period, he painted still lifes, portraits and female nudes of a luminous naturalism. Gallimard published Apollinaire’s Calligrammes illustrated with 66 lithographs by the artist, in which the Sun on the Easel theme first appeared. He married Raissa on 3 February 1930 when their relationship was already in difficulty. In the autumn, he met Isabella Pakszwer (later known as Isabella Far) who became his second wife and remained his life-long companion. His break-up with Raissa was complete by late 1931. 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 1934, he illustrated Cocteau’s Mythologie with ten lithographs on the Mysterious Baths theme. He participated in the II Roman Quadrennial with 45 paintings of which seven from this new theme.

1936-1937

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. In June 1937, he received news from his brother of their mother’s death.

1938-1947

In January 1938, he returned to Italy and settled in Milan, before leaving for Paris, outraged by Italy’s racial laws. 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, who was a Russian Jew born in Warsaw. He began creating terracotta sculptures: the Archaeologists, Hector and Andromache, Hippolytus and his Horse and a Pietà. He published Il Signor Dudron in “Prospettive” and an essay on sculpture Brevis Pro Plastica Oratio in “Aria d’Italia”. In 1941, James Thrall Soby published The Early Chirico. Hebdomeros was published in Italian in 1942. He wrote a number of critical/theoretical articles for various periodicals, which were later included in Commedia dell’arte moderna (Rome 1945) with essays from the “Valori Plastici” period. In 1944, he settled permanently in Rome. Irving Penn photographed the artist with a laurel crown in a celebrative and ironic pose. In 1945, he published the autobiographies: Memorie della mia vita 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. He began a fierce battle against the falsification of his painting, which had begun in the mid-1920s. On 18 May 1946, he married Isabella Pakszwer. In June 1946, the Parisian Galerie Allard organised, with Breton’s approval, a de Chirico show containing 20 fake metaphysical works by the Surrealist painter Oscar Dominguez. In 1947, he set up studio in an apartment located at 31 Piazza di Spagna, where moved the following year and spent the rest of his life.

1948-1967

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. In 1950, as an act of protest to the Venice Biennial where a “formidable fake” had been exhibited two years earlier and the prize for Metaphysical Painting had been awarded Giorgio Morandi, he organised an “Anti-Biennial”, exhibiting his work with other “anti-modern” artists at Venice’s Bucintoro Rowing Club. Similar shows took place in 1952 and 1954. On 5 May 1952, Alberto Savinio died in Rome. 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.

1968-1978

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 sense of 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. 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.