Italian painter, who was the originator of metaphysical painting and a precursor of surrealism.
Having studied in Athens and Munich, Chirico went to Paris, where he painted most of the early pictures for which he is best known. These pictures, with their ominous dreamlike atmosphere, consist mainly of open spaces in which arcades and buildings are placed sparingly in deep perspective and apparently out of context. Statues and small solitary figures cast long shadows in these eerie townscapes, as in Melancholy of a Beautiful Day (1913). After 1914 he also peopled his paintings with tailors' dummies and included a denser arrangement of objects, such as huge rubber gloves and abstract constructions.
In 1915 Chirico returned to Italy, where he was conscripted into the army. While in hospital, suffering from a nervous breakdown, he met the painter Carlo Carrà (1881–1966), also recovering from a mental disorder; together they formed the Scuola Metafisica in 1917. However, less than two years later Chirico changed his style: admiration for the great works of the Italian classical tradition led him to explore the techniques of the Renaissance in paintings of classical landscapes, Roman villas, horses, and gladiators. Returning to Paris in 1924 he found himself hailed as a master by the recently formed surrealist group. He temporarily reverted to his earlier style before breaking with the surrealists from 1930 and returning to an increasingly academic style.