Engravings reflect de Chirico’s Greece

In his writings and the interviews he gave, Giorgio de Chirico (1888-1978) was usually as enigmatic as the mood in his famous metaphysical paintings of 1909-1918. The degree to which he considered his work to draw its inspiration from Greek antiquity remains therefore unclear. During the 1920s, when de Chirico’s work entered a more conservative phase, the artist claimed to be a «classical painter,» yet the esoteric quality of many of his paintings and the impact of the painter Arnold Bocklin on the artist’s work give credence to his claim that what inspired him was the Nordic landscape. Either way, the fact is that de Chirico’s work is filled with themes inspired by Greek mythology. It also includes plenty of recurring motifs that hark back to his childhood upbringing in the city of Volos. The Greek-inspired aspect in the oeuvre of this great surrealist painter is underlined in an important exhibition on 100 engravings by de Chirico. Held at the Giorgio de Chirico Center of Art in Volos, which is the artist’s birthplace, the exhibition draws from the Lisa Sotili collection. It is curated by art historian and adviser to the Volos Municipality Faye Tzanetoulakou and is produced by Nikolas Velissiotis, who produces classical music for French national radio. Texts in the supplementary catalog are by Antonio Vastano and are taken from the Giorgio de Chirico catalogs by the Italian Bora publications. Structured along recurring themes in the work of de Chirico, the engravings include the famous «Piazza d’Italia» series with the sleeping figure of Ariadne as the major figure, the «Gladiator» and «Dioskouroi» (Castor and Polydeuces, the twin sons of Zeus) series, but also the lesser-known series of the «Bagni Mysteriosi» (Mysterious Baths), where the recurring motif of the seashore changing cabin is said to stem from the artist’s childhood reminiscences. The train is probably the most direct reference to the artist’s upbringing. De Chirico’s father was an Italian railroad engineer and was in charge of the construction of the railroad network in Thessaly. The departure of the Argonauts as well as the Centaurs, topics which are directly linked to Thessaly, are among the most famous themes in the work of de Chirico. Other Greek-inspired figures and themes include Hector and Andromache, Orestes and Odysseus. Greek mythology was the inspiration for a series of watercolors that de Chirico made in the early 1960s on a commission by IRI, Italy’s largest state holding company. That same year IRI launched 60 albums – collector’s items – with these images. One of those albums belongs to the Giorgio and Ida de Chirico Foundation in Rome, which donated it to the Giorgio de Chirico Center of Art in Volos on the occasion of the current exhibition. The album which is exhibited in one of the exhibition’s sections is the only work of de Chirico owned by this Greek institution, which is named after the great Italian artist but is home to the Damtsas collection of 19th and 20th century Greek art. The donation of the album may launch future collaborations with the foundation in Rome. Giorgio de Chirico Center of Art  (3 Metamorphoseos, Volos, tel 24210.31701) to end-October. Open Mon-Fri 10 a.m. – 1 p.m., 6-9 p.m.; Sat 10 a.m. – 1 p.m.