Unreal Nature

October 17, 2016

The Second Loneliness

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:41 am

… His still-life objects … have the intensity of meaning with which children invest their playthings.

This is from Giorgio de Chirico by James Thrall Soby (1966):

… Sometime in 1913 de Chirico began to populate the foregrounds of his Italian squares with inanimate objects, while retaining his deep background perspectives. The compositional antecedents of this practice are too well known to require comment; fifteenth-century Italian painting, as an unavoidable example, includes numerous works in which foreground figures loom up before a remote landscape.

[line break added] But the astonishing thing about de Chirico’s adaptation of this traditional device is the iconographical irrelevance between the near objects and their spatial setting. The huge artichokes in The Square, the bananas and plaster torso in The Uncertainty of the Poet — these objects look as though they had rained to earth from another, less reasonable planet.

The Uncertainty of the Poet, 1913

[ … ]

Every serious work of art contains two different lonelinesses. The first might be called “plastic loneliness,” that is, the beatitude of contemplation produced by the ingenious construction and combination of forms, whether they be still lifes come alive or figures become still — the double life of a still life, not as a pictorial subject, but in its supersensory aspect, so that even a supposedly living figure might be included. The second loneliness is that of lines and signals; it is a metaphysical loneliness for which no logical training exists, visually or psychically. —Giorgio de Chirico

If the appearance of commonplace vegetables and fruit amid de Chirico’s melancholy squares is disquieting, it is nonetheless immediately acceptable, first because of the artist’s talent for spatial organization, and, secondly, because of his genius for poetic dislocation. The latter is by far the more rare phenomenon in art, for in most cases where painters have disrupted the traditional affinities of subject matter, the new medley seems gratuitous and self-consciously fantastic (witness the pictures by imitators of the original surrealists).

[line break added] The violence done to logic appears arbitrary; one feels that the violence could easily have taken another and different form. Contrarily, the dislocation of reality in de Chirico’s early art is convinced and unique. His still-life objects, for example, have the intensity of meaning with which children invest their playthings. In thus depicting them in strange isolation, amid far unreal perspectives, de Chirico has in effect proclaimed the validity of a counter-reality which children accept with passionate faith.

The Square, 1913




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