Giorgio de Chirico
Giorgio de Chirico (1888-1978), born to Italian parents in Volos, Greece, studied painting in Munich from 1906 to 1909, and lived briefly in Florence and Milan before settling in Paris in 1911. His studio in Montparnasse brought him into contact with a wide swathe of the Parisian avant-garde, including the poet and critic Guillaume Apollinaire, an early champion of the painter’s so-called Metaphysical painting. Despite their lingering “literary” redolence, de Chirico’s spare cityscapes earned him critical praise and, eventually, representation by Paul Guillaume’s formidable gallery. After Italy entered World War One, de Chirico moved to the city of Ferrara to serve in the army, joined by with his brother and perennial collaborator, Alberto Savinio (né Andrea de Chirico). Their appointment as clerks spared them front-line combat, and de Chirico found time to hone his Metaphysical imagery, now centered upon compact rooms filled with scraps of colored wood, canvas stretchers, and other objects glimpsed in the city’s former Jewish ghetto. After the dissolution of a short-lived “Scuola Metafisica” in Italy, de Chirico returned to Paris in the early 1920s, where his reception by the newly formed Surrealist movement lent fresh momentum to his pre-war imagery. His relationship with the Surrealists soured after he abandoned his Metaphysical style for more pedantically neoclassical imagery, steeped explicitly in ancient myth. De Chirico’s notorious self-copying of his Metaphysical paintings further compromised his rapport with the avant-garde, and his eventual return to Italy witnessed successive styles – from various neo-Delacroix, to neo-Renoir, and numerous others – increasingly distanced from the architectonic imagery by which he made his early mark on modernism.
At once meandering tale, aesthetic treatise, and autobiography à cle, the book marked both a departure from, and a culmination of, de Chirico’s writings since the 1910s, finding him venture for the first time into experimental narrative prose.