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Giorgio de Chirico and the Myth of Ariadne

Giorgio de Chirico and the Myth of Ariadne

by Michael R. Taylor

Giorgio de Chirico (1888–1978) was one of the most innovative and controversial artists of the twentieth century. His early success in Paris and subsequent lionization by the Surrealists were followed by decades of negative criticism. While his enigmatic Metaphysical paintings—with their dreamlike imagery of deserted city squares filled with mysterious shadows, stopped clocks, and sleeping statues—had a powerful impact on modern art, de Chirico himself abandoned modernism in the 1920s for a return to the painting techniques of the old masters.

A key to understanding de Chirico’s oeuvre is an early series of paintings he made in 1912–13 of the mythical Greek princess Ariadne. De Chirico increasing engagement with Paris’s avant-garde art scene can be traced in the series, as well as the coalescence of his own painting style. In later years, the artist would return to the Ariadne theme again and again in his vast series of Piazza d’Italia paintings, which in their repetition and minute variations border on the obsessive. For all this claims to the contrary, de Chirico remained profoundly modern, his serial approach to painting foreshadowing the work of such artists as Andy Warhol.

In eight essays the authors explore the importance of the Ariadne series in the context of the Paris art world before World War I and in later developments in de Chirico’s career. An unpublished text by Max Ernst and an interview with Gerard Tempest, who was tutored by de Chirico for two years in the late 1940s, shed new light on the artist and his working methods. Illustrated with some 180 paintings, drawings, sculptures, and documentary photographs, this book provides an unparalleled range of primary research materials and the best overall account of de Chirico’s career.

216 pages
51 color plates +132 b&w reproductions
Cloth ISBN: 0-87633-163-0
Paper ISBN: 0-87633-164-9