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Metaphysical Painting


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A style of painting invented by de Chirico in about 1913 and practised by him, Carrà (from 1917), Morandi (from 1918), and a few other Italian artists until about 1920. The term (Pittura Metafisica) was coined by de Chirico and Carrà in 1917, when both were patients at a military hospital in Ferrara, although Apollinaire had earlier applied the word ‘metaphysical’ to de Chirico's work. The meaning attached to the word, which occurs in the titles of several pictures by de Chirico particularly, was never precisely formulated, but the style is characterized by images conveying a sense of mystery and hallucination (one definition of ‘metaphysical’ is ‘transcending physical matter’). This enigmatic effect was achieved partly by unreal perspectives and lighting, partly by the adoption of a strange iconography involving, for example, the use of tailor's dummies and statues in place of human figures, and partly by an incongruous juxtaposition of realistically depicted objects in a manner later taken over by some of the Surrealists. However, the dreamlike quality conveyed by Metaphysical Painters differed from that of the Surrealists because of their concern with pictorial structure: their works often have an architectural sense of repose deriving from Italian Renaissance art.

Subjects: Art.


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