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Giorgio De Chirico Photo

Giorgio De Chirico

Italian Painter

Movement: Surrealism

Born: July 10, 1888 - Volos, Greece

Died: November 20, 1978 - Rome, Italy

Giorgio De Chirico Timeline

Important Art by Giorgio De Chirico

The below artworks are the most important by Giorgio De Chirico - that both overview the major creative periods, and highlight the greatest achievements by the artist.

The Enigma of an Autumn Afternoon (1910)
Artwork Images

The Enigma of an Autumn Afternoon (1910)

Artwork description & Analysis: The Enigma of an Autumn Afternoon is the first painting in de Chirico's Metaphysical Town Square series, and the first painting in which he settled upon the style and imagery for which he is now famous - quiet, enigmatic, strangely simplified scenes of old towns. It is also the first in a number of canvases that he titled with the word "enigma." We may speculate that the enigma in question is the relationship between the real and the unreal, as this picture was painted after the artist felt a revelation in Florence's Piazza Santa Croce in which the world appeared before him as if for the first time. The painting depicts a portion of that square in a simplified fashion. It has many of the features that would become hallmarks of his work: a desolate piazza bordered by a classical facade, the long shadows and deep colors of the city at dusk, and a stationary figure, here a statue. The sail visible in the distance may have been inspired by de Chirico's memories of visits he made as a youth to the harbor of Piraeus in Greece.

Oil on canvas - Peggy Guggenheim collection

The Child's Brain (1914)
Artwork Images

The Child's Brain (1914)

Artwork description & Analysis: The Child's Brain was a favorite of Surrealism's founder André Breton, who bought the painting reportedly after it caused him to get off his bus when he saw it hanging in a gallery window. One can appreciate its impact on Breton, for almost a decade before the Surrealists had begun to speak about the power of dreams and the unconscious, de Chirico was painting images such as this that spoke about exactly these themes. Breton said that in conversations with de Chirico, the painter revealed that the man depicted in this image was his father. The bookmark inserted into the book on the table symbolizes his parents' lovemaking - the bookmark positioned so as to represent the phallus. On another level, the man in the painting, whether modeled upon de Chirico's father or not, is meant as a portrait of the young, sexually ambivalent and virile Dionysus. Breton and the Surrealists had interpreted de Chirico's work through their readings of psychoanalysis, but Freud was unknown to de Chirico until the 1920s.

Oil on canvas - Moderna Museum, Stockholm

Gare Montparnasse (The Melancholy of Departure) (1914)
Artwork Images

Gare Montparnasse (The Melancholy of Departure) (1914)

Artwork description & Analysis: Not to be confused with a 1917 painting simply entitled The Melancholy of Departure, the present work, Gare Montparnasse (The Melancholy of Departure), was dubbed an "architectonic masterpiece" by Robert Hughes. The presence of the architecture is central to its power, yet it is the way de Chirico treats the architecture that is so innovative; it is not intended to represent a particular place, or environment, but instead it is like a theatrical set - an unreal backdrop for unreal events. It is typical of the artist's work of the 1910s in its use of multiple vanishing points, deep colors, and elongated shadows of dusk. The clock tower and departing train possibly foreshadow his imminent departure to join the Italian army in the First World War. Trains are a familiar motif in de Chirico's work, functioning as a symbol of life and youthful expectation.

Oil on canvas - Museum of Modern Art, New York

The Disquieting Muses (1916)
Artwork Images

The Disquieting Muses (1916)

Artwork description & Analysis: The muses are another recurring motif in de Chirico's paintings. He believed they inspired the artist to see beyond mere appearances and look into the metaphysical - the realm of memory, mythology and truth. This was originally painted while he was living in Ferrara, around 1917; the city's Castello Estense can be seen in the background. It would later become an inspiration for a Sylvia Plath poem of the same name. Once again, de Chirico disregards the true scale of architecture, and seems to represent it almost as a miniature model in which he can place the symbolic objects of an uncanny still life. At least 18 copies of this painting exist, which were backdated by the artist to suggest that he had painted them in the late 1910s, just like this picture. The practice of producing such copies and backdating them was partly an attempt to profit and, in part, a means of taking revenge on the critics who attacked his later works.

Oil on canvas - Private collection

Great Metaphysical Interior (1917)
Artwork Images

Great Metaphysical Interior (1917)

Artwork description & Analysis: This is one of a series of "metaphysical interiors" painted by de Chirico in the later part of this period, while he was living in Ferrara. Like other works in the series, it features a room cluttered with a diverse set of objects, including other framed images, and was influenced by his walks through the city's arcades. The contents of the room are fairly suggestive, but the fact that food features commonly in de Chirico's work from this period has led to the suggestion that the baguettes lying in a coffin-like box are perhaps a reference to his intestinal problems.

Oil on canvas - Museum of Modern Art, New York

Self-Portrait (1924)
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Self-Portrait (1924)

Artwork description & Analysis: This is an example of the many self-portraits de Chirico painted in the 1920s. It presents him as a heroic, visionary figure, and is reminiscent of self-portraits by Mannerist painters from the 16th century. The artist's gesture is also a common motif in his work at this time, and may have been borrowed from a picture by Arnold Bocklin. The use of tempera as the medium for the picture also suggests the influence of the 19th century Swiss artist. As de Chirico's work became more conservative in the 1920s, he became increasingly interested in older painting techniques. The Latin tag visible in the background translates as "I seek enduring fame in order to be celebrated the world over." It conveys a sentiment typical of the Renaissance, though for de Chirico it may also have brought to mind the writings of the philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche.

Tempura on canvas - Kunstmuseum, Winterthur



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Giorgio De Chirico Photo

Related Art and Artists

Ubu Imperator (1923)
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Ubu Imperator (1923)

Artist: Max Ernst

Artwork description & Analysis: This is a relatively small canvas in comparison to Ernst's other works although it radiates a commanding presence beyond its scale. At center, dominating the composition is a tower-like form with human arms extended and a head constructed as an architectural form. The tower is balanced precariously as if a spinning top which has been halted. The stability of architecture versus the instability of the tower's base, and its movement, places the object in internal conflict. Ernst has placed the body/building within a bare desert, with just an abandoned scythe in the background, which would prove futile in such a setting. The title, "Ubu Imperator," translates as the Commander, yet the central figure lacks the stability and authority a leader usually commands in both art and life.

Oil on canvas - Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris

The Persistence of Memory (1931)
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The Persistence of Memory (1931)

Artist: Salvador Dalí

Artwork description & Analysis: This iconic and much-reproduced painting depicts the fluidity of time as a series of melting watches, their forms described by Dalí as inspired by a surrealist perception of Camembert cheese melting in the sun. The distinction between hard and soft objects highlights Dalí's desire to flip reality lending to his subjects characteristics opposite their usually inherent properties, an un-reality often found in our dreamscapes. They are surrounded by a swarm of ants hungry for the organic processes of putrefaction and decay of which Dalí held unshakable fascination. Because the melting flesh at the painting's center resembles Dalí, we might see this piece as a reflection on the artist's immortality amongst the rocky cliffs of his Catalonian home.

Oil on canvas - Museum of Modern Art, New York

Familiar Objects (1928)
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Familiar Objects (1928)

Artist: Rene Magritte

Artwork description & Analysis: Here, the viewer is confronted by five men - or perhaps five views of the same man - each corresponding to a seemingly random object. These bland portraits with indistinct clothes, features, and expressions are characteristic of Magritte. The objects, on the other hand, are unique and command more attention than the figures who stare blankly at them. Several pictures that predate this attest to Magritte's interest in depicting objects in his work, but this is the first in which the objects appear alongside figures and are associated with the mental states of those figures. In this regard it shows the artist's growing interest in the Surrealist idea of the unconscious. Magritte's way of placing the objects in relation to the figures also enabled him to partially occlude their faces, a strategy which he would often employ in later work.

Oil on canvas - Private collection

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