Art of the 20th Century

A Revolution in the Arts



Art Styles in 20th century Art Map



The Great Avant-garde Movements



Surrealist Art








Conquest of the marvellous


Surrealism and painting


Towards a revolutionary art


Across the world


The object


Festivals of the imagination


In the United States


Surrealist architecture


The post-war period






see also:

Surrealism - 1924

Max Ernst
"A Week of Kindness" (A surrealistic novel in collage)

Rene Magritte "Thought rendered visible"

Salvador Dali

Surrealism  "The Dream of Revolution"







Conquest of the marvellous

(Pittura Metafisica)

Carlo Carra
Giorgio Morandi

Andre Breton - Manifeste du surrealisme
Giorgio de Chirico
Pierre Roy


Guillaume Apollinaire

As soon as Andre Breton moved in 1922 into the studio, in the Rue Fontaine in Paris, which he made into a holy place of surrealism, he set about turning the studies of the group towards 'automatic writing', a method which he and Soupault had used in 1920 to compose Les Champs magnetiques. Automatic writing consisted of writing down as rapidly as possible, without revision or control by reason, everything that passed through the mind when the writer had been able to detach himself sufficiently from the world outside. This exercise was intended to lay bare the 'mental matter' which is common to all men, and to separate it from thought, which is only one of its manifestations.

When Breton was a medical student at the Centre Neurologique in Nantes, he had become interested in possible methods of regenerating psychology on the basis of data provided by psychiatry. It was his ambition to make poetic language into an exploration of the unconscious. In this he based himself on the ideas of Sigmund Freud, who was at that time not appreciated in France, but whom Breton admired enough to visit him in Vienna in 1921. Pie also sought the views of scientists such as Th. Flournoy and Charles Richet, who had made studies of hypnosis and mediumship. In the 'sleep period' which was started at Breton's apartment at the suggestion of Rene Crevel, transcripts were made of what trance subjects said. The drawings of Robert Desnos, the hero of this period, show that the possibility of applying the techniques of automatic writing to painting was also envisaged at this time. Experiments of this kind produced a kind of almost intoxicated exhilaration and nervous exhaustion, as is borne out by Aragon's little book Une Vague de reves (1924).

Breton sets out the contents of these sessions in his Entree des mediums, in which he defines what he means by surrealism : 'a kind of psychic automatism which corresponds very closely to a dream state, which today is very difficult to delimit'. So the term which Guillaume Apollinaire had used in the sense of 'lyrical fantasy', when he described his Les Mamelles de Tiresias as a 'surrealist drama', now took on a new and strictly experimental meaning.

Guillaume Apollinaire

(Encyclopaedia Britannica)

born August 26, 1880, Rome?
died November 9, 1918, Paris

Pseudonym of Guillelmus (or Wilhelm) Apollinaris de Kostrowitzki poetwho in his short life took part in all the avant-garde movements that flourished in French literary and artistic circles at the beginning of the 20th century and who helped to direct poetry into unexplored channels.

The son of a Polish émigrée and an Italian officer, he kept his origins secret. Left more or less to himself, he went at the age of 20 to Paris, where he led a bohemian life. Several months spent in Germany in 1901 had a profound effect on him and helped to awaken him to his poetic vocation. He fell under the spell of the Rhineland and later recaptured the beauty of its forests and its legends in his poetry. More important, he fell in love with a young Englishwoman, Annie Playden, whom he pursued, unsuccessfully, as far as London; his romantic disappointment inspired him to write his famous “Chanson du mal-aimé” (“Song of the Poorly Loved”).

After his return to Paris, Apollinaire became well known as a writer and a habitué of the cafes patronized by literary men. He also made friends with some young painters who were to become famous—Maurice de Vlaminck, André Derain, Raoul Dufy, and Pablo Picasso; he introduced his contemporaries to Henri Rousseau's paintings and to African sculpture; and with Picasso, he applied himself to the task of defining the principles of a Cubist aesthetic in literature as well as painting. His Peintures cubistes appeared in 1913 (Cubist Painters, 1944).

His first volume, L'Enchanteur pourrissant (1909; “The Rotting Magician”), is a strange dialogue in poetic prose between the magician Merlin and the nymph Viviane. In the following year a collection of vivid stories, some whimsical and some wildly fantastic, appeared under the title L'Hérésiarque et Cie (1910; “The Heresiarch and Co.”). Then came Le Bestiaire (1911), in mannered quatrains. But his poetic masterpiece was Alcools (1913; Eng. trans., 1964). In these poems he relived all his experiences and expressed them sometimes in alexandrines and regular stanzas, sometimes in short unrhymed lines, and always without punctuation.

In 1914 Apollinaire enlisted, became a second lieutenant in the infantry, and received a head wound in 1916. Discharged,he returned to Paris and published a symbolic story, Le Poèteassassiné (1916; The Poet Assassinated, 1923), and more significantly, a new collection of poems, Calligrammes (1918), dominated by images of war and his obsession with anew love affair. Weakened by war wounds, he died of Spanish influenza.

His play Les Mamelles de Tirésias was staged the year before he died (1917). He called it surrealist, believed to be the first use of the term. Francis Poulenc turned the play into a light opera (first produced in 1947).

In his poetry Apollinaire made daring, even outrageous, technical experiments; his calligrammes, thanks to an ingenious typographical arrangement, are designs as well aspoems. More generally, Apollinaire set out to create an effect of surprise or even astonishment by means of unusualverbal associations and, because of this, could be called the herald of Surrealism.




Andre Breton


Breton's Surrealist Manifesto, Manifeste du surrealisme (1924), in noble and impassioned language, opened the indictment of the realist attitude in life and in literature. He struck up an enthusiastic hymn to imagination, the fountain where men could find eternal youth, and denounced adults for having let the passage of time rob them of a child's faculty of playfulness : 'Perhaps childhood is the nearest state to true life; childhood, beyond which, apart from his laissez-passer, man has only a few complimentary tickets'. Breton indicated that the aim of the movement was 'the marvellous', and preferably the marvellous in modern life, inspired by the symbolism of dreams, whose latent content was revealed by psychoanalysis. Surrealism was against the world of appearances, but it was not enough merely to reject it, with whatever brilliance. This world must be replaced by the world of apparition. He prayed for fairy enchantment. 'However delightful they may be, man would think it beneath him to draw all his nourishment from fairy tales, and I agree that not all of them are suitable for his age. But man's faculties do not undergo a radical change. Appeals to fear, the attraction of the unknown, chance, fondness for luxury, are appeals which will never be made in vain.'

Breton wanted surrealist paintings to give form to humanity's most secret longings : 'The fauna and the flora of surrealism are shameful and cannot be confessed to.' And he wanted the surrealist artists to eschew all pretensions to talent or style, and to behave as 'modest recording devices' who will not be hypnotized by the drawing they are making. He defined surrealism as the spontaneous exploitation of 'pure psychic automatism', allowing the production of an abundance of unexpected images. He stressed the intoxication which was produced by automatic writing, and said : 'Surrealism is a new vice, which, it seems to me, should not be the prerogative of only a few men.' (Later Aragon was to be more precise : 'The vice of surrealism is the uncontrolled and impassioned use of the drug image.') There was no question of replacing reality by a fantastic universe. The aim was to reconcile reality with the illogical processes which arise in ecstatic states or in dreams, with the aim of creating a super-reality. Surrealism cannot accurately be described as fantasy, but as a superior reality, in which all the contradictions which afflict humanity are resolved as in a dream.


The generosity and lyricism which bubbled over in Breton's message, and his impetuous, brilliant insolence, were sure to win over many minds. Yet the Manifeste led to a temporary break with Picabia, who, ever faithful to his maverick course, still believed that Dada would be resurrected, and scoffed at the new movement in 391: 'There is only one movement, and that is perpetual motion'. He invented 'instantaneism' as a game, and when he wrote the libretto of Relache in that same year, he baptized it an 'instantaneist ballet'. Shortly afterwards, Picabia retired to the Chateau de Mai, built to his own design in Mougins, near Cannes. There he led a bustling life between his yacht, his racing cars, the galas and competitions which he presided over, and the festivities he organized for the town of Cannes. He no longer took any decisive part in surrealism, but he remained in association with the movement because of his impulsive friendships, and of the development of his painting, which was moving into 'the so-called 'Monster' period.

The poets and painters who gathered under the black banner of surrealism claimed to be 'specialists in revolution'. They banded together to protest against intellectual privilege and intellectual malpractice. They affirmed the rights of the dream, of love, of awareness, and they joined in encouraging the mind to be open to wild encounters and to the surprises afforded by chance. From this time on they justified their wilful embracing of the scandalous by their anxiety to denounce the obstacles which prevent life from being a poetic adventure. Instead of jeering at the public, they sought its collaboration. A 'Bureau of Surrealist Enquiries' was opened in the Rue de Crenelle on 11 October 1924. Here, where a dress-shop dummy dangled from the ceiling, the public at large was invited to bring along accounts of dreams or of coincidences, ideas on fashion or politics, or inventions, so as to contribute to the 'formation of genuine surrealist archives'. Antonin Artaud took on the direction of the bureau and inspired it with his own nervous fire. 'We need disturbed followers more than we need active followers.'


La Revolittion surrealiste, 'the most scandalous periodical in the world', was founded in December 1924. The tone of its famous surveys ('Is suicide a solution ?'; 'What kind of hope do you put in love?' etc.) forced its readers to express a sensibility which went far beyond the normal cliches. Writing, painting and sculpture became aspects of one single activity - that of calling existence into question. The 'Declaration of 27 January 1925' laid down the statute. 'Surrealism is not a new or easier means of expression, nor is it a metaphysic of poetry; it is a means toward the total liberation of the mind and of everything that resembles it... We have no intention of changing men's habits, but we have hopes of proving to them how fragile their thoughts are, and on what unstable foundations, over what cellars they have erected their unsteady houses.' The twenty-six signatories included three painters, the first, chronologically, to join the movement : Max Ernst, Georges Malkine and Andre Masson.


The group's ideal was to share genius in common, without any loss of individuality. This was the reason underlying the surrealist games, which were not mere entertainments. When the friends met in each other's apartments they felt the brotherhood of their imaginations. The Game of the Analogical Portrait, the Truth Game, the When and If Game, and the Game of Exquisite Corpse, were methods devised to extract marvels from everyday reality. The most popular game was Exquisite Corpse (le Cadavre exquis), in which a sentence or a drawing was made up by several people working in turn, none of them being allowed to see any of the previous contributions. La Revolution surrealiste published many results of this poetry of chance : 'The winged vapour seduces the locked bird'; 'The strike of the stars corrects the house without sugar'. Paul Eluard, in Donner a Voir, stressed the ritual nature or these sessions. 'Several of us would often meet to string words together or to draw a figure fragment by fragment. How many evenings we spent in the loving creation of a whole race of Exquisite Corpses. It was up to every player to find more charm, more unity, more daring in this collectively determined poetry. No more anxiety, no more memory of misery, no more tedium, no more stale habit. We gambled with images, and there were no losers. Each of us wanted his neighbour to win more and more, so that he could pass it on to his neighbour'. When he recalled the Definition Game in his L'Amour fou (1937), Andre Breton spoke of it as 'the most fabulous source of unhndable images', that is, images which resulted from unforeseen associations of forms or themes, and which the surrealist artists kept in mind in their works. However, right from the first issues of La Revolution surrealiste, two authors bluntly put the question as to whether there was such a thing as surrealist painting. In an article entitled 'Les Yeux enchantes' ('Enchanted Eyes'), Max Morise (1900-1973) stressed the difficulties which painters had to face when they tried to accomplish the equivalent of automatic writing in their pictures. He doubted whether they could ever keep up with the speed of ideas and the succession of images with the same intensity as poets could keep up with the flood of words.

Le cadavre exquis

Exquisite corpse (also known as "exquisite cadaver" or "rotating corpse") is a method by which a collection of words or images are collectively assembled, the result being known as the exquisite corpse or cadavre exquis in French. Each collaborator adds to a composition in sequence, either by following a rule (e.g. "The adjective noun adverb verb the adjective noun") or by being allowed to see the end of what the previous person contributed.

The technique was invented by Surrealists in 1925, and is similar to an old parlour game called Consequences in which players write in turn on a sheet of paper, fold it to conceal part of the writing, and then pass it to the next player for a further contribution.

Later the game was adapted to drawing and collage, producing a result similar to children's books in which the pages were cut into thirds, the top third pages showing the head of a person or animal, the middle third the torso, and the bottom third the legs, with children having the ability to "mix and match" by turning pages. It has also been played by mailing a drawing or collage — in progressive stages of completion — to the players, and this variation is known as "exquisite corpse by airmail", or "mail art," depending on whether the game travels by airmail or not.

The name is derived from a phrase that resulted when Surrealists first played the game, "Le cadavre exquis boira le vin nouveau." ("The exquisite corpse will drink the new wine."


Andre Breton, Yves Tanguy, Jacqueline Lamba
Exquisite Corpse, 1938

Andre Breton, Cadavre Exquis, Max Morise, Pierre Naville, Benjamin Peret, Jacques Prévert, Jeannette Tanguy and Yves Tanguy.
, 1928

Man Ray, Yves Tanguy,
Joan Miro
and Max Morise, 1928.

Cadavre Exquis, Man Ray, Joan Miro,
Max Morise and Yves Tanguy.
, 1926-1927.

Andre Breton, Victor Brauner, Cadavre Exquis, Jacques Herold, Jeannette Tanguy and Yves Tanguy.
, 1934.


Andre Breton
Cadavre exquis, 1930

Andre Breton
Cover of Littarature, 1922


Andre Breton, Yves Tanguy, M.Duchamp, Max Morise,
Cadavre Exquis, Man Ray, Yves Tanguy, Joan Miro, Max Morise.


Andre Breton, Cadavre Exquis, Valentine Hugo, Greta Knutson and Tristan Tzara.
, 1933.

Andre Breton
Poem-Object, 1935

Andre Breton
Le Declin de la societe bourgeoisieabout, 1935


Andre Breton
 Poeme-Objet from VVV Portfolio


Andre Breton
Untitled, 1935


Andre Breton




Pierre Naville, the co-director of the magazine, came out soon afterwards with a categorical statement : 'No one remains unaware of the fact that there is no surrealist painting. It is clear that pencil marks resulting from chance gestures, a picture which sets down dream images, and imaginative fantasies can none of them be described as surrealist painting.' He went on to say that from now on the plastic arts would be replaced by shows, spectacles such as were provided by the cinema, by photography, or by the direct observation of street scenes. This negative attitude, a relic of the dadaist anathema of art, was justified by the passion that the surrealist group had for the cinema. Films like Nosferatu the Vampire and The Student of Prague were to be the models for a 'fascinating' style, which the surrealists considered that painting was not yet able to attain. Man Ray, who had made Return of Reason (Retour de la raison, 1923) on the same principle as his 'rayograms', said at this time : 'The cinema is a superior art which is worth all the others put together'.

The first group exhibition of surrealism in 1925 at the Galerie Pierre was not very representative. The exhibitors were Chirico, Klee, Arp, Ernst, Man Ray, Miro, Picasso, and Pierre Roy. This was a random collection and showed that although the movement knew what its aims in poetry were, its ideals in painting were still unstable. Klee's inclusion was a tribute to an artist who was not appreciated in France, but he was a surrealist neither in his Creative method nor in his beliefs. Picasso's presence was evidence of an interest which was to become active rather later. In the Manifeste, Breton confined himself to saying : 'Picasso is hunting in the environs'. Arp, Ernst and Man Ray had not entirely freed themselves from the dadaist spirit. Only Miro was genuinely representative of surrealism.


Paul Klee


Pierre Roy, a friend of Apollinaire, had first been interested in fauvism, and had then flung himself into the evocation of 'everyday marvels'; he did minutely detailed pictures of collections of strange objects which raised calls to adventure or to dream like those evoked by a collection of random objects in an attic. His part in the movement was episodic, and he cannot be regarded as an artist who counted in surrealism. Giorgio de Chirico, the great painter of dreams, persisted in dashing the hopes of the group, who kept in constant contact with him, and who tried to turn him into a root-and-branch surrealist.

Pierre Roy


Pierre Roy
Danger on the Stairs

Pierre Roy
A Naturalist's Study

Pierre Roy
Metric System


Surrealist painting owes a great deal to Chirico, whose example even led to people joining the movement. Max Ernst was influenced by him initially;
Pierre Roy imitated him, or rather translated him into his own language; both Rene Magritte and Yves Tanguy received powerful creative impulses from his paintings. For his part, Chirico owed a great deal to the surrealists, although he always claimed with pride that neither his admirers nor his critics had ever understood his work. Had it not been for the revelatory illumination which surrealism cast on his fertile period from 1911 to 1918, this period would still be regarded as a part of 'metaphysical painting' (Pittura Metafisica), a loose concept made even more so by the tact that Carlo Carra and Giorgio Morandi gave it different meanings, and the importance of this period would have been diminished by his subsequent development. There are two men in Chirico : one whom the surrealists loved, and one whom they hated and fought against. They even thrust themselves between these two men so that the latter should not persist in distorting the message of the former.

Carlo Carra
Natura Morta Metafisica



Carlo Carra
La Musa Metafisica


Carlo Carra
La Camera Incantata

Carlo Carra

(Encyclopaedia Britannica)

born Feb. 11, 1881, Quargnento, Italy
died April 13, 1966, Milan

one of the most influential Italian painters of the first half of the 20th century, best known for his still lifes in the style of Metaphysical painting.

Carra studied painting briefly at the Brera academy in Milan but was largely self-taught. In 1909 he met the poet Filippo Marinetti and the artist Umberto Boccioni, who converted him to Futurism, an aesthetic movement that exalted patriotism, modern technology, dynamism, and speed. Carra's “The Funeral of the Anarchist Galli” (1911; Museum of Modern Art, New York City) shows the dynamic action, power, and violence characteristic of theFuturists.

With World War I the classic phase of Futurism ended and, although Carra's collage “Patriotic Celebration, Free Word Painting” (1914; Gianni Mattioli Foundation, Milan) is based on Futurist concepts, he soon began to paint in a style of greatly simplified realism. “Lot's Daughters” (1915), for example, is an attempt to recapture the solidity of form and the stillness of the 13th-century painter Giotto. This new style was crystallized in 1917 when he met the painter Giorgio De Chirico, who taught him to convey in his paintingsthe unsettling sense of life in everyday objects. Carra and De Chirico called their style pittura metafisica (“Metaphysical painting”), and their works of this period have a superficial similarity.

In 1918 Carrà broke with De Chirico and Metaphysical painting. Throughout the 1920s and '30s, he painted melancholy figurative works based on the monumental realism of the 15th-century Italian painter Masaccio. Through such moody but well-constructed works as “Morningby the Sea” (1928; Gianni Mattioli Foundation, Milan) and through his many years of teaching at the Milan Academy, he greatly influenced the course of Italian art between WorldWars I and II.



Giorgio Morandi
Still-Life with a Ball, 1918

Giorgio Morandi
Still-Life with a Dummy, 1918




The Chirico whom the surrealists adored had all the poetic genius, the sarcastic humour, the intolerance and the sense of mystery which they expected of a master. His temperament was inherited. His father, a Sicilian engineer who lived in Greece, had an aristocratic temperament and had fought several pistol duels. His mother was romantically enough inclined to have had one of the bullets which had wounded her husband mounted in gold. After studying in Athens, Chirico left Greece with his mother and brother after his father's death in 1906, when he was eighteen. He went to Munich, where he became a student of art. He painted in the spirit of Bocklin, and read the German philosophers, particularly Nietzsche, who influenced him greatly. From 1909 to 1911 he divided his time between Milan and Florence, receiving impressions which were later to be the inspiration for his Places d'Italie.

Giorgio de Chirico
Place d'Italie

Giorgio de Chirico
Place d'Italie


In 1911 he moved to Turin, and then to Paris, where he made himself known by showing three pictures in the Salon d'Automne, and painted desolate cities and arcades. He soon became a regular attender at Apollinaire's Saturday soirees. Apollinaire was at that time the only one to hail the innovation of his painting. In 1914, Paul Guillaume became the first dealer to buy his work and to give him any encouragement. Chirico turned out Enigmas in his Montparnasse studio. A clock, a statue seen from the rear, a furtive shadow, the empty spaces and the occupied spaces of a piece of architecture, were the simple elements from which he was able to compose eerie pictures. He began to produce combinations of objects, such as fragments of sculpture, gloves, artichokes and bananas, which took on a votive aspect. The Mannequins added their enigma to that of the cities. Uncannily, one painting showed Apollinaire with a target shape marking the fatal bullet wound of 1918.


Giorgio de Chirico
Premonitory portrait of Apollinaire


He was recalled to Italy during the war, and lived in Ferrara from 1915 to 1918. There he met Carlo Carra, with whom he invented 'metaphysical painting', and created his Metaphysical interiors and his strange still-lifes with biscuits, matchboxes and set-squares. His colours became more intense, and his Mannequins more complex, as in The Disquieting Muses and Hector and Andromache (1917, Milan, Fondazione Gianni Mattioli). Sometimes he included a map or a trompe-l'ail picture of a factory in his interiors, thus creating a supplementary illusion. Chirico hated music, and jeered at music-lovers who would sit and listen for hours in a concert hall. He suggested that they should be made to spend a similar period of time examining a master painting through opera glasses. Any one of his works would have stood up to this kind of scrutiny; Chirico is the painter of silences. He describes the moment of waiting, where everything holds its breath and is transfixed before the arrival of some portent or some apparition. His universe stands on the threshold of the event. Its calm and harmonious lines conceal the alarm and curiosity aroused by what is to come.

Giorgio de Chirico
The Disturbing Muses

Giorgio de Chirico
Hector and Andromache,



Louis Aragon

At the time when the surrealists were hailing Chirico as a master, he was living in Rome and changing his style. 'I have been tormented by one problem for almost three years now - the problem of craftsmanship', he wrote to Breton in 1922. He began to copy Trecento and Quattrocento paintings, and to study ancient treatises. In the belief that oil was harmful to paint, he ground his own colours, filtered his own varnishes, and began to paint with a calculated slowness. To their dismay, Louis Aragon and Breton could find in this technician no trace of the great painter of inspiration who believed in ghosts, and who had once insisted, as they sat on a cafe terrace, that one of the customers actually was a ghost. They could see no trace of the cultivated man, full of paradoxes, who had said, grandiloquently: 'If a work of art is to be truly immortal, it must pass quite beyond the limits of the human world, without any sign of common sense and logic. In this way the work will draw nearer to dream and to the mind of a child.'

Louis Aragon

(Encyclopaedia Britannica)

born Oct. 3, 1897, Paris, France
died Dec. 24, 1982, Paris

original name Louis Andrieux French poet, novelist, and essayist who was a political activist and spokesman for communism.

Through the Surrealist poet André Breton, Aragon was introduced to avant-garde movements such as Dadaism; and together with Philippe Soupault, he and Bretonfounded the Surrealist review Littérature (1919). Aragon's first poems, Feu de joie (1920; “Bonfire”) and Le Mouve mentperpétuel (1925; “Perpetual Motion”), were followed by a novel, Le Paysan de Paris (1926; The Nightwalker). In 1927 his search for an ideology led him to the French Communist Party, with which he was identified thereafter, as he came to exercise a continuing authority over its literary and artistic expression. In 1928 he met Elsa Triolet (the Russian-born sister-in-law of the poet Vladimir Mayakovsky), who became his wife and his inspiration (she died in 1970).

In 1930 Aragon visited the Soviet Union, and in 1933 his political commitment to communism resulted in a break with the Surrealists. The four volumes of his long novel series, Le Monde réel (1933–44; “The Real World”), describe in historical perspective the class struggle of the proletariat toward social revolution. Aragon continued to employ Socialist Realism in another long novel, Les Communistes (6 vol., 1949–51), a bleak chronicle of the party from 1939 to 1940. His next three novels—La Semaine sainte (1958; Holy Week), La Mise à mort (1965; “The Moment of Truth”), and Blanche ou l'oubli (1967; “Blanche, or Forgetfulness”)—became a veiled autobiography, laced withpleas for the Communist Party. They reflected the newer novelistic techniques of the day.

The poems of Le Crève-Coeur (1941; “Heartbreak”) and La Diane française (1945) express Aragon's ardent patriotism, and those of Les Yeux d'Elsa (1942; “Elsa's Eyes”) and Le foud'Elsa (1963; “Elsa's Madman”) contain deep sentiments of love for his wife. From 1953 to 1972 Aragon was editor of the communist cultural weekly Les Lettres Françaises. He was made a member of the French Legion of Honour in 1981.



Chirico began to paint horses on the seashore, pieces of furniture in the open air, ruins and rocks in rooms, and all this with heavy pretensions towards classicism. When he returned to Paris in 1926 he put on an exhibition at the Galerie Leonce Rosenberg. The surrealists responded by mounting a counter-exhibition at the Galerie Surrealiste, Rue Jacques-Callot, in February 1928. In this they included all the 'good' Chiricos they owned. In the gallery's display window they arranged children's toys in parodies of his recent paintings. Aragon wrote a pamphlet called Le Feuilleton change d'auteur ('The serial has a change of writer'), in which he wrote indignantly : 'One has only to see the latest work of this painter who was the theatre - and a wonderful theatre - of everything great in the world, the reflection of everything unknowable of the whole epoch, to realize how few rights the maker has over his earlier visions.' Chirico had complained that the title of one of his earlier works had been altered in La Revolution surrealiste; Aragon defiantly gave new titles to the eighteen works on exhibition.

Giorgio de Chirico
Love Song

Giorgio de Chirico
The Conquest of the Philosopher




Although Chirico tried to recover his former inspiration in The Contemplator of the Infinite (1925, Paris, private collection), The Consoler (1926) and The Archaeologists (1928, Amsterdam, Stedelijk Museum), he never again reached the sublime state which he expressed so perfectly between the ages of twenty-three and thirty. The surrealists did not acknowledge the return of his genius until the appearance of his novel Hebdomeros in 1929. Hebdomeros is a wandering hero, moving at random in an indefinite city whose inhabitants pass their time in the 'construction of trophies'. When Hebdomeros stands at the window to contemplate the reality of the street, he discovers that 'It was still only the dream, and even a dream within the dream.... What we have to do is to discover, for by the act of discovery we make life possible, in the sense that we reconcile it with its mother, Eternity.' This proposition was in accord with surrealism, which was interested only in discovery to the exclusion of anything else, and which insisted, with Chirico, that painters should explore unknown worlds.

Giorgio de Chirico
The Red Tower

Giorgio de Chirico

(Encyclopaedia Britannica)

born July 10, 1888, Vólos, Greece
died Nov. 19, 1978, Rome, Italy

Italian painter who, with Carlo Carrà and Giorgio Morandi, founded the pittura metafisica style of painting (Metaphysical painting).

In 1906 de Chirico entered the Munich Academy of Fine Arts. His early style was influenced by the paintings of Arnold Böcklin and Max Klinger, which juxtapose the fantastic with the commonplace. By 1910 he was living in Florence, where he began painting a unique series of landscapes such as “The Enigma of an Autumn Afternoon” (1910), in which the long, sinister, and illogical shadows cast by unseen objects onto empty city spaces contrast starkly with the bright, clear light, which is rendered in brooding green tonalities. Moving to Paris in 1911, de Chirico gained the admiration of Picasso and Guillaume Apollinaire with his ambiguously ominous scenes of deserted piazzas with classical statues, dark arcades, and small, isolated figures overpowered by their own shadows and by severe, oppressive architecture. Such works are exemplified by “TheSoothsayer's Recompense” (1913) and “The Mystery and Melancholy of a Street” (1914).

At Ferrara, in 1915, de Chirico practiced a modification of his earlier manner, marked by more compact groupings of incongruous objects. In paintings of this period, such as the “Grand Metaphysical Interior” (1917) and “The Seer” (1915),the colours are brighter, and dressmakers' mannequins, draftsmen's compasses, biscuits, and paintings on easels assume a mysterious significance within enigmatic perspectival landscapes or interiors.

The element of mystery in de Chirico's paintings dwindled after 1919, when he became interested in the technical methods of the Italian classical tradition. He eventually began painting in a more realistic and academic style, and by the 1930s he had broken with his avant-garde colleagues and had disclaimed his earlier works. De Chirico's Metaphysical paintings exercised a profound influence on the painters of the Surrealist movement in the 1920s.



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