Giorgio de Chirico: Myth and Mystery

Estorick Collection of Modern Italian Art

15 January – 19 April 2014

£2.50 with National Art Pass (standard entry £5)

National Art Pass lets you enjoy free entry to over 240 venues across the UK as well as 50% off major exhibitions.

Find out more

Twenty sculptural works and a selection of drawings and paintings by the 'father of metaphysical art'.

Born in Greece to Italian parents, Giorgio de Chirico studied painting in Athens, Florence and Munich, developing a fascination with classical subject matter.

Influenced by Symbolism and the philosophies of Schopenhauer and Nietzsche, de Chirico spent the early 1900s establishing what would become the key iconography of Metaphysical painting; mannequins, illogical perspectives juxtaposed with everyday objects and deserted city squares.

Around this time he is quoted as declaring 'to be really immortal a work of art must go beyond the limits of the human: good sense and logic will be missing from it. In this way it will come close to a dream state and also to the mentality of children'.

Painters and poets gravitated towards what became identified as the 'Scuola metafisca', including de Chirico's younger brother – known under the pseudonym Alberto Savinio –​ as well as the Surrealist group emerging out of Paris in the 1920s.

Although de Chirico would revisit Metaphysical iconography throughout his career, his work moved into other fields of exploration, from Renaissance and Baroque inspired imagery to an entire series devoted to gladiators and galloping horses.

During the 1930s he was also experimenting with sculpture, creating terracotta versions of the characters that populated his painting and by the 1960s he had expanded into bronze, faithfully reworking his figures into three dimensions using the same stylistic qualities from the pictures in which they first appeared.

Spanning 40 years of de Chirico's career, the exhibition charts the artist's obsession with certain subjects, themes and motifs, both in painting and sculpture.

Don't miss

In the sculptural work, The Archaeologists, from 1966, you can see evidence of a rougher, looser handling, replicating the fluid brushwork that was used in his watercolour of the same name, produced several decades prior.

Back to top