Giorgio de Chirico was born in Volos, Greece, on July 10, 1888, to Evaristo de Chirico, a railway engineer from a noble family of Sicilian origin, and Gemma Cervetto, a noblewoman from Genoa. Following the death of his father, in 1906 de Chirico moved with his family to Germany, to Munich, where he began attending the Academy of Fine Arts and assiduously studied the work of Böcklin and Klinger; and then approached the philosophy of Nietzsche, Schopenhauer and Weininger.
Returning to Italy in 1909, the following year he joined his brother Andrea (who would take the name Alberto Savinio) in Paris. De Chirico was deeply impressed by the city’s deserted squares and architecture bathed in warm summer light, which inspired the first works of the metaphysical period first exhibited in Paris at the Salon d’Automme in 1912. In 1913 he exhibited at the Salon des Indépendants, became linked with the artists of the Cubist avant-garde, and, through the critic Apollinaire and his international contacts, the names of the de Chirico brothers began to be known as early as 1914 in the United States.
With the onset of World War I, both brothers returned to Italy and enlisted. This period saw the birth of “metaphysical painting,” indicating the tendency to transcend the boundaries of objective and conventional reality to reveal the deeper and more unexpected side of things. From 1919, de Chirico rediscovered the art of the great artists in museums, and a return to ancient painting could be felt in his language. He continued to live between Rome and Florence and, in the meantime, became closer to the Surrealists. Some of the themes that will be widely developed again in later years appear in this period: archaeologists, mannequins, horses by the sea, landscapes in the room, and gladiators.
In August 1936 he left for New York, where his work was exhibited in numerous galleries and purchased by various collectors. At the beginning of the following decade, de Chirico’s baroque phase is filled with self-portraits in costume and takes from the great masters of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. In 1944 he moved permanently to Rome’s Piazza di Spagna and, in the last years of his life, developed a new period of research known as Neometaphysics, during which he painted works on meditation and the reworking of subjects from his painting and graphic art of the 1910s, 1920s and 1930s. He died in Rome on November 20, 1978.
Major participations in group exhibitions include: the Venice Biennale (1942, 1948, 1956, 1972), the Rome Quadriennale (1943, 1951, 1955, 1959, 1965, 1972), the Kassel Exposition “Documenta I” (1955). In 1949 and in 1952 and 1954 he organized solo exhibitions in London and Venice, respectively, in controversy with the critics’ acceptance of the Metaphysical period alone and against the criterion of selecting mostly abstract works in the Venice Biennale. Since 1970, when a large anthological exhibition of his works was organized in Milan, numerous exhibitions followed in Italy; receiving important recognition especially abroad.