The visionary work of Giorgio de Chirico (1888-1978) had an enormous impact on the course of twentieth-century art. His unsettling ‘Metaphysical’ imagery – with its illogical perspectives, looming mannequins and bizarre juxtapositions of objects – anticipated Surrealism’s fascination with the irrational and the workings of the subconscious by many years. Even before the First World War, de Chirico had declared: ‘To be really immortal a work of art must go beyond the limits of the human: good sense and logic will be missing from it. In this way it will come close to the dream state, and also to the mentality of children.’

Although best known as a painter, de Chirico was fascinated by sculpture throughout his career, believing it to possess a mysterious spectral quality. Statues set in deserted city squares were a key element of his iconography from 1909 onward, and toward the end of the 1930s the artist began to experiment with sculpture, creating terracotta versions of the enigmatic figures that had long populated his paintings. In these works, which reflect de Chirico’s enduring fascination with classical subjects, characters from mythology such as Hector and Andromache take on the forms of tailors’ dummies or intricately constructed automatons. During the 1960s he produced bronze versions of such works, and subsequently began to create multiples, often with highly-polished gold or silver finishes. The exhibition focused on these late pieces in particular and also included a number of drawings and paintings on related themes. Such was the success of his work in this field that in 1972 de Chirico was awarded the prestigious Ibico Reggino Prize for Sculpture, alongside Henry Moore.

Organised in collaboration with Galleria d’Arte Maggiore – Bologna (Italy), Myth and Mystery illuminated an aspect of de Chirico’s career that will be unfamiliar to many, vividly evoking that sense of magic and surprise which the artist associated with sculpture, and reaffirming his position as one of the most important and consistently imaginative figures of modern Italian art.

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Marcello Mastroianni and Jeanne Moreau on the set of La Notte by Michelangelo Antonioni, 1960 © Sergio Strizzi Photography

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Pasquarosa, Vase of Flowers, c. 1916

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