Hailey Coral

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Italian Surrealist: Giorgio de Chirico

When the surrealist movement began in the early 1920's, the main focus was to bring the dream world into the real world; to make the illogical and strange thoughts of our subconscious not so hidden in society. Though the movement begun in Paris, the Italian artist Giorgio de Chirico was the main influence of the surrealist development. De Chirico was Italian but he was born and taught in Greece in his early years and worked most of his artist life in Florence, Milan, Germany, Paris, and Rome. One of de Chirico's main themes in his paintings was placing odd and curious symbols juxtaposed next to each other and this then led the surrealist group stylistically. However, the difference between many of Chirico's paintings and other surrealist works, is that most of the surrealist artists focused on the dreamworld and awakening the subconscious, whereas a lot of the paintings by de Chirico incorporated classical influences from the past, or symbols pertaining to Greek mythology (stemming from his birthplace). For example, in de Chirico's "The Soothsayer's Recompense," he used exaggerated color and perspective to show a "sleeping Ariadne, who according to Greek mythology was abandoned by her lover on the desert island of Naxos" in the middle of a deserted Italian piazza (Philadelphia Museum of Art). Though the subjects themselves in this painting are a little more realistic than lets say, Dali's meting clocks in "The Persistence of Memory," they are nonetheless unrealistic in their conflicting moods and background, and use of color and sharpness. This painting in particular is a little less "photo-realistic" than the other surrealist paintings as well, for the sharp shadows and paint strokes that are seen within the darker areas of the painting are much more harsh and unrealistic (there are even black outlines around where the shadows end). Further, the perspective seems to be much more flat. Though we can see that the train, building, and brick wall are in the background, it is not as much because of the perspective drawing aspect, but more because of his use of simple scaling. Though the style and subject matter may be not as close to surrealist work as some of his other paintings, The Soothsayer's Recompense most definitely carries the curious quality that surrealism entails. The foreground is quiet, empty, and obvious, whereas behind the brick wall, the world looks new (for that time), and the use of steam and transportation contrasts drastically with the greek sculpture in the foreground. If it were not for the background of this image (and the coloring and style of course), this work could have easily passed as a landscape painting based on greek times. The train, palm trees, clock, and even the little flags, lend a more juxtaposed and interesting perspective on the subject. Giorgio de Chirico no doubt influenced the surrealist painters and movement dramatically, but his ideology stemmed from something a little less tapped into the dream/sub-concoious world, and was more concerned with classical background and symbols.


Sources: http://www.philamuseum.org/collections/permanent/51288.html