28 May 2011

The enigmatic poet of Nostalgia and Melancholia - Giorgio De Chirico

Surrealism was very concerned with this essential quest “The wish for absolute freedom”. In particular the early fathers of surrealism wanted to set people free. They were as serious and dogmatic as the Catholic Church in its most rigid period (most of the time I would say). The natural clan leader was André Breton. He borrowed the word ‘sur-reality’ from Apollinaire. That was in 1917 after he had watched the ballet “Parade”. I read somewhere (probably in one of Robert Hughes books, he is the only art critic that I read, I like his style, although I don’t always share his feelings) that Andre Breton behaved like a demanding and touchy Pope. The group around Breton had dogmas, rituals, catechism, saints and excommunications. N.B., how can you propagate “the Idea of absolute freedom”and at the some time act like a tyrant? A very obvious contradiction. Maybe ‘Absolute freedom’ is only possible if you don’t have your own will and your own thoughts. You surround yourself in all aspects of your being, both physically and psychically with something, someone….you free yourself from feelings and thoughts….and act like a collective. (I just thought of Star Trek the next generation and the Borg Collective.)

Back to the early years of Surrealism and the Surrealists, to the period that they didn't call themselves surrealists. Giorgio De Chirico is seen as the most original and by some the best surreal painter of all time. That sounds odd if you consider the fact that De Chirico represented the early surreal trend and only for a very short period, between 1911 and 1917. After that time, in the eyes of the surrealists, he had so betrayed his talent as to have become an UNPERSON. His work and his style changed more than anyone could have imagined, from the essence of disquieting poetry to candid, mock-classical art. He also faked his own early work, starting soon after 1920, and kept doing so to the absolute confusion of art dealers and collectors. I agree that this is an obscure kind of behaviour, and an obscene betrayal of the psychic integrity of his paintings from 1911-1917.

During his stay in Paris from 1911 till 1917 and during his ‘romance’ with the surreal art scene he created absolutely fabulously enigmatic surreal paintings. De Chirico has been influenced by Freud's ideas, by the art of Arnold Bӧcklin (I will blog about him very soon) and Max Klinger and by the philosophy of Schopenhauer and Nietzsche. In his own words from the Paris period he concluded:

“To become truly immortal a work of art must escape all human limits: logic and common sense will only interfere. But once these barriers are broken it will enter the regions of childhood vision and dream. It is most important that we should rid art of all that it has contained of recognizable material to date, all familiar subject matter, all traditional ideas, all popular symbols must be banished forthwith”.

A Melancholy of the Beautiful Day - 1913

Being true to his own feelings and his beliefs he shaped his ‘Nostalgias’ and ‘Melancholies’ in a real unreal, theatrical landscape (mostly from Turin) with his dummies/mannequins lost (immersed) in their enigmatic existences and their surreal unconsciousness.

The Red Tower - 1913
I haven’t see a lot of De Chirico's paintings, the original ones. I think most of them have been bought by private collectors. There are a few in MOMA in New York, some of them really poetical. Three in the Tate Modern in London, a few in German Museums (I am sure some in Stuttgart), two in Belgium in the Royal Museum of Fine Arts in Brussels. In the Guggenheim Museum in Venice are The Red Tower and The Nostalgia of the Poet. Those are the paintings that I have seen. I discovered also a few paintings in different cities in US. But I didn’t see them. I love the one in Guggenheim in Venice The Red Tower
The two Mannequins - 1920
Cont. tomorrow

1 comment:

BiddleBlog said...

Thanks for your great post on De Chirico. I've never seen the Red Tower before-such an amazing image - I adore his colour palette,so unconventional in using the warm colour in the distance - sublime