Giorgio de Chirico (1888-1978) was one of the most innovative and controversial artists of the twentieth century. His enigmatic paintings, with their dream-like imagery of deserted city squares filled with mysterious shadows, stopped clocks and sleeping statues, had a profound influence on modern art.

A reclining statue of Ariadne, the princess of Greek mythology, in an empty sun-drenched piazza, is an important element of de Chirico’s ‘Metaphysical’ iconography. This melancholy subject appealed to the artist, who had a nostalgic interest in the classical past. A symbol of exile and loss, the anguished figure of the sleeping Ariadne haunted de Chirico’s imagination during his early years in Paris, a time of intense loneliness for him. The mystery and melancholy found in the pictures completed between the spring of 1912 and the autumn of 1913 resonates in his work throughout his long career.

This exhibition brought together key works of the Ariadne series from private and public collections around the world and includes such masterpieces as The Soothsayer’s Recompense (1913), along with related drawings and sculptures.

These iconic works, which were to have such a powerful impact on the Surrealist paintings of Salvador Dali and Max Ernst, were complemented by a selection of later paintings on the theme of Ariadne. The works on display offered visitors a valuable opportunity to examine the early and late works in relation to one another, and to analyse the autobiographical symbolism of these haunting images.

The exhibition was organised in association with the Philadelphia Museum of Art.


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