Metaphysical Art - A Compendious Sketch
It was the beginning of the XX century, it was a period of artistic turmoil that saw the birth of "Fauvism" (André Derain, Raul Dufy, Henry Matisse...), "Cubism" (George Braque, Fernard Léger, Pablo Picasso...), "Futurism" (Giacomo Balla, Umberto Boccioni, Carlo Carrá...) and "Dada" (Jean (Hans) Arp, Marcel Duchamp, Francis Picabia...). Paris became the mecca of the creative geniuses of Europe and Europe became the cradle of the major art movements of this century and the sanguinary battlefield of the "First World War".
I think that reading the history of that period would help understand the history of its art. As you probably know, reading is essential to acquiring knowledge and knowledge is the only road that leads to the garden of wisdom. Whether you buy a book or borrow it from your local library branch, it is immaterial, the importance is that you will learn how to read and read for learning.
"Metaphysical Art", in its etymological meaning, ascends beyond naturalistic reality where the mystery and the magic of appearance dissolve the enigma of perception, and settles in the realm of dreams where the classical Past challenges the modernism of the Future. The art thus created, far removed from everyday life, as if stolen from an unknown world, acquired an unreal almost supernatural presence which appealed to the subconscious mind and stimulated the imagination of the viewer who witnessed the denudation of nature and not its idealization.
Against a background of classical architecture and modern factories, mysterious squares, inhabited by statues frozen in time and pinned to the ground by foreboding shadows, welcome the taylor's dummy, the plaster busts, the gloves, the towers and the railway stations with their noiseless clocks, the gloves and the bottles, the artichokes and the bananas, the biscuits and ..., while deserted beaches, nostalgic countrysides and mythological settings, painted in a meticulous and fascinating style, seem to question the essence of silence and the whole spectrum of early XX century artistic creations. Whether there is such a square, beach or still life, the concept of the painting as a symbolic vision is already "fait accompli". Look at those deserted city squares in a late autumn afternoon when the shadows stretch to their limits beyond the boundaries of the visual plane, and think about their impending drama when they will be annihilated by the setting sun, only then you will realize that the shadow is the life of every statue, every mannequin and every portico represented within the space of a canvas.
squares, the beaches, the interiors are often devoid of human beings thus enhancing the mystery of
the composition in a well defined and often distorted perspective used only for emotional efficacy,
oblivious of any reference to actual reality. Although some of the paintings may suggest a sense of
loneliness aggravated by isolation and prompted by fear in a variety of empty spaces, in fact they
reaffirm man's forbidden love for the unknown and his ceaseless efforts for self realization.
Historically, "Metaphysical Art" was born in 1917 in Ferrara when de Chirico met Carlo Carrá and Filippo de Pisis. Within a year, Carrá became the theoretician of "Pittura Metafisica" with the publication of a book with the same title enunciating its philosophy. Another interpreter of the ideology of the movement was de Chirico's brother Andrea, known as Alberto Savinio. I am referring only to the writings of two of the members Artists, to emphasize, once more, that writing and painting seem to be an integral part of the "modus vivendi" of the true creative minds from the Renaissance to Modern Times. By 1920, Giorgio de Chirico had taken his art on a classical voyage, never repudiating his past and returning to it long before the end of his life.
Giorgio de Chirico was considered the principal precursor of "Surrealism" and his paintings have been included in every major surrealist exhibition since 1925. "Metaphysical Art" and "Surrealism" live today the dreams of yesterday and the expectations of tomorrow. The end of a day is the beginning of another.
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Revised: December 3, 1997