De Chirico, Max Ernst, Magritte, Balthus: A Look into the Invisible

The powerful legacy of a 'world of silence'
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Giorgio de Chirico, Self-Portrait (1911)

1 / 23 Giorgio de Chirico, Self-Portrait (1911)

Giorgio de Chirico, The Enigma of the Arrival and the Afternoon (1911-1912)

2 / 23 Giorgio de Chirico, The Enigma of the Arrival and the Afternoon (1911-1912)

Carlo Carrà, The Drunken Gentleman (1916)

3 / 23 Carlo Carrà, The Drunken Gentleman (1916)

Carlo Carrà, The Builder's Son (1917 - 1921)

4 / 23 Carlo Carrà, The Builder's Son (1917 - 1921)

Carlo Carrà, Oval of the Apparitions (1918)

5 / 23 Carlo Carrà, Oval of the Apparitions (1918)

Giorgio Morandi, Still Life (1918)

6 / 23 Giorgio Morandi, Still Life (1918)

Giorgio Morandi, Still Life (1919)

7 / 23 Giorgio Morandi, Still Life (1919)

Max Ernst, Oedipus Rex (1922)

8 / 23 Max Ernst, Oedipus Rex (1922)

Giorgio de Chirico, Roman Landscape (1922)

9 / 23 Giorgio de Chirico, Roman Landscape (1922)

René Magritte, The Meaning of Night (1927)

10 / 23 René Magritte, The Meaning of Night (1927)

Alberto Savinio, The Enchanted Isle (1928)

11 / 23 Alberto Savinio, The Enchanted Isle (1928)

Alberto Savinio, The Lost Ship (1928)

12 / 23 Alberto Savinio, The Lost Ship (1928)

René Magritte, The Secret Life (1928)

13 / 23 René Magritte, The Secret Life (1928)

Alberto Savinio, The Siesta (1928)

14 / 23 Alberto Savinio, The Siesta (1928)

Pierre Roy, The Thunderstorm (1929)

15 / 23 Pierre Roy, The Thunderstorm (1929)

Niklaus Stoecklin, Wig Stand (with Pear-Shaped Money-Box) (1929)

16 / 23 Niklaus Stoecklin, Wig Stand (with Pear-Shaped Money-Box) (1929)

Arturo Nathan, Solitary Statue (1930)

17 / 23 Arturo Nathan, Solitary Statue (1930)

Max Ernst, Loplop Introduces the Beautiful Season (1930)

18 / 23 Max Ernst, Loplop Introduces the Beautiful Season (1930)

Pierre Roy, The Beach (1930)

19 / 23 Pierre Roy, The Beach (1930)

Arturo Nathan, The Shipyard (1931)

20 / 23 Arturo Nathan, The Shipyard (1931)

René Magritte, The Human Condition (1933)

21 / 23 René Magritte, The Human Condition (1933)

Max Ernst, Mineral Trees - Conjugal Trees (1940)

22 / 23 Max Ernst, Mineral Trees - Conjugal Trees (1940)

Balthus, Le Passage du Commerce-Saint-André (1952-1954)

23 / 23 Balthus, Le Passage du Commerce-Saint-André (1952-1954)


The surrealist artist Giorgio de Chirico famously said that art should reveal what 'cannot be seen' in nature and ‘illuminate’ the mind’s eye.

A Look into the Invisible, on show at Florence's Palazzo Strozzi until 18 July 2010, centres around De Chirico’s metaphysical period; that shift in perspective between 1909-1910 when his sunlit Mediterranean cityscapes slowly became enigmatic and existential images of solitariness and bewilderment. The show explores the artist's own work, his influence on figures such as Max Ernst and Rene Magritte and the way his work paved the way for what came after, from Dadaism and Surrealism to Magic Realism and Neo-Romanticism.

Highlights of the exhibition include De Chirico’s revolutionary works, The Enigma of the Arrival and the Afternoon (1911-12) and The Nostalgia of the Infinite (1912), which portray his interest in the nihilistic literature of Nietzche, Schopenhauer and Heraclitus. As well as Oedipus Rex (1922), the exhibition features some of Max Ernst’s first collages and drawings which highlight the interesting affinities they share with De Chirico’s metaphysical works. Magritte’s The Key of Dreams (1930) and The Human Condition (1933), Carlo Carrà’s The Drunken Gentleman (1916) and Giorgio Morandi’s still lifes similarly show themes of poetic interiority and disquieting melancholy.

The French painter Balthus is the more surprising of De Chirico’s disciples, but the justification of his inclusion can be found in a deeper consideration of the monumental Passage du Commerce-Saint-Andre (1952-1954) and the Place de L’Odeon (1928), works in which Balthus uses sexuality to break out of the condition of existential solitude, bringing a new and vital intensity to the 'world of silence'.


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