Giorgio de Chirico July 10, 1888 – November 20, 1978) was a Greek-born Italian artist. In the years before World War I, he founded the scuola metafisica art movement, which profoundly influenced the surrealists.
Metaphysical art (Italian: Pittura metafisica), was a style of painting that flourished mainly between 1911 and 1920 mostly in the works of de Chirico and Carlo Carrà. The movement began with Chirico, whose dreamlike works with sharp contrasts of light and shadow often had a vaguely threatening, mysterious quality, 'painting that which cannot be seen'.De Chirico, his younger brother Alberto Savinio, and Carrà formally established the school and its principles in 1917.
While Futurism staunchly rejected the past, other modern movements identified a nostalgia for the now faded Classical grandeur of Italy as a major influence in their art. Giorgio de Chirico first developed the style that he later called Metaphysical Painting while in Milan.
It was in the more sedate surroundings of Florence, however, that he subsequently developed his emphasis on strange, eerie spaces, based upon the Italian piazza. Many of de Chirico's works from his Florence period evoke a sense of dislocation between past and present, between the individual subject and the space he or she inhabits. These works soon drew the attention of other artists such as Carlo Carrà and Giorgio Morandi.
In 1917, in the midst of the First World War, Carrà and de Chirico spent time in Ferarra where they further developed the Metaphysical Painting style that was later to attract the attention of the French Surrealists. The Metaphysical school proved short-lived; it came to an end about 1920 because of dissension between de Chirico and Carrà over who had founded the group.
After 1919, he became interested in traditional painting techniques, and worked in a neoclassical or neo-Baroque style, while frequently revisiting the metaphysical themes of his earlier work.
In the early 1920s, the Surrealist writer André Breton discovered one of De Chirico's metaphysical paintings on display in Paul Guillaume's Paris gallery, and was enthralled.
Numerous young artists who were similarly affected by De Chirico's imagery became the core of the Paris Surrealist group centered around Breton. In 1924 De Chirico visited Paris and was accepted into the group, although the surrealists were severely critical of his post-metaphysical work.
De Chirico met and married his first wife, the Russian ballerina Raissa Gurievich in 1925, and together they moved to Paris. His relationship with the Surrealists grew increasingly contentious, as they publicly disparaged his new work; by 1926 he had come to regard them as "cretinous and hostile". They soon parted ways in acrimony. In 1928 he held his first exhibition in New York City and shortly afterwards, London. He wrote essays on art and other subjects, and in 1929 published a novel entitled Hebdomeros, the Metaphysician.
In 1930, De Chirico met his second wife, Isabella Pakszwer Far, a Russian, with whom he would remain for the rest of his life. Together they moved to Italy in 1932, finally settling in Rome in 1944. In 1948 he bought a house near the Spanish Steps which is now a museum dedicated to his work.
In 1939, he adopted a neo-Baroque style influenced by Rubens. De Chirico's later paintings never received the same critical praise as did those from his metaphysical period. He resented this, as he thought his later work was better and more mature. He nevertheless produced backdated "self-forgeries" both to profit from his earlier success, and as an act of revenge—retribution for the critical preference for his early work. He also denounced many paintings attributed to him in public and private collections as forgeries.
He remained extremely prolific even as he approached his 90th year. In 1974 he was elected to the French Académie des Beaux-Arts. He died in Rome on November 20, 1978.