Introducing Giorgio de Chirico

When one thinks of the work of Giorgio de Chirico (1888-1978), one typically thinks of his highly-prized, prewar paintings: crisply rendered architecture, intense sunlight contrasted with deep shadows, and hauntingly empty plazas in the distance often with an unexpected combination of objects in the foreground. When the Valentine Gallery presented de Chirico's first solo exhibition in the U.S. in January 1928, five examples of these metaphysical paintings were on display: The Philosopher's Conquest, 1913/14 (Art Institute of Chicago); The Endless Voyage, 1914 (Wadsworth Atheneum, Hartford, CT); The Serenity of the Scholar, 1914 (Museum of Modern Art, New York); The Destiny of the Blasphémateur, 1914 (unidentified); and The Delights of the Poet, 1913 (Current Location Unknown).

At that time, however, the critics and collectors preferred de Chirico's recent paintings that comprised the bulk of the exhibition. Described by one reviewer as "a full blast of modernism," the large, colorful canvases featured cartoon-like depictions of faceless mannequins seated within architectural elements, variations on classical imagery such as gladiators or nudes inexplicably crowded into rooms, or figures frozen in spaces that suggest stage sets. A number of paintings depicted pairs of horses cavorting on the seashore with broken columns or antique temples in the distance. In this exhibition, Dudensing presented seventeen paintings completed in 1926 and 1927. While he sold the bulk of this group, the dealer was unable to sell any examples of the artist's early work. The show was called "the sensation of the season" leading Dudensing to immediately arrange for a follow-up exhibition comprised exclusively of recent works from 1925 to 1928.

The second de Chirico exhibition opened at the Valentine Gallery in late December 1928 and continued through the following month. Once again the paintings attracted crowds as well as praise from the press who dubbed them de Chirico's "masterworks." At least three paintings from this exhibition are in U.S. museum collections today: The Eventuality of Destiny, 1927 (Art Institute of Chicago); Conversation among the Ruins, 1927 (National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC); and Horses, c. 1928 (Phillips Collection, Washington, DC).


For more on Giorgio de Chirico's critical reception in the U.S. and his first extended visit to this country, see the exhibition catalogue Giorgio de Chirico and America (New York : Hunter College of the City University of New York ; Rome : Fondazione Giorgio e Isa De Chirico ; Turin : Umberto Allemandi, 1996).