DeChirico was born in 1888 in Greece, but of Italian parentage. He spent his childhood amongst classical Greek ruins, the harsh sun, the broad paved squares of small Greek towns, and the sometimes bleak, rocky landscape of the hills. His teen years were spent in Italy where his father was a railroad engineer. And his art training occurred in Germany among the radical art movements just before WW I. Drawing from all these inputs, DeChirico's early works employed these elements along with a generous topping of Freudian psychology and the philosophical writings of German philosopher, Friedrich Nietzche. Later, studying in Paris he dismissed Impressionism as superficial and was equally unimpressed with the Cubists and Fauves, whose work was very much in fashion at the time.
|Nostalgia of the Infinite,|
1912, Georgio DeChirico
|The Great Metaphysician,|
1917, Georgio DeChirico
He termed his work Metaphysical, meaning beyond the real world, coincidentally, not far from a synonym for Surreal. His work is always bleak. The colors are strong, harsh, highly contrasting, the simplified towers and illogical piazzas in his paintings, deserted, stark, and frightening, not unlike an after-the-apocalypse nightmare. Typical of this is his Nostalgia of the Infinite, painted about 1912, or his 1917 painting, The Great Metaphysician. His towers, statues, trains, and arched arcades bear no relation to history, nature, or reality. His edges are hard, his shadows long and dismal, his content often not far from abstraction. From Nietzche he painted a world just beneath that in which we live, where the subconscious ruled, which often seems more real. Though, we know his work was admired by the Surrealists, it's hard to say how much his influence his stark "other reality" had upon the birth of their movement in the mind of Breton. But we don't need to know this to see that he was a surrealist before there were Surrealists.