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One of the most interesting features in de Chirico's art is the unmistakable and heavy sense of gloom. Although the actual images he painted were innocuous-seeming scenes of piazzas and towers, all bearing that mediterranean flavour - there is always an undeniable disconcerting aura about them.

The first de Chirico painting that sucked me into its shrouded and odd silence was 'Mystery and Melancholy of a Street'. Its flat format showing two buildings, an area in shade and child playing with a hoop seem mundane and immature. However instantly, one can feel the overpowering silence. The lack of form through modelling, and the stark bright noontime yellow of the piazza really does emanate mystery.

This oddity in the picture at first appears unfounded, baffling. There is something disturbing in de Chirico's art which at first is hard to pin down but the - a keen artist eye will trace it. Many of his metaphysical paintings show two planes of perspective. The eye is used to seeing pictures with mathematically calculated perspectives with one vanishing point to which all edges are distorted. De Chirico, however, deliberately takes away what the eye has become used to viewing, then given the painting two separate vanishing points, so that although the iconography makes it seem like one picture, the eye instructs the mind that it is actually two.

Few artists, IMHO, are as striking as de Chirico in setting a mood - except maybe for Balthus, but that would be a whole other node.

Giorgio de Chirico (or simply "De Chirico") was a Greek-Italian Surrealist painter who founded the scuola metafisica art movement. While he is not quite the same sort of famous as his later contemporaries Salvador Dali or Rene Magritte, his work as a pre-Surrealist was critical to the development of the Dada and Surrealist periods in art.

The majority of work that De Chirico is known for was created during his metaphysical period, which lasted from 1909 to 1919. These works are characterized by their sense of utter solitude and silence, and for the use of various Italian plazas as their subject. De Chirico often distorted the perspective of his work by using multiple and conflicting vanishing points with otherwise well-executed illustrations of Italian architechture. The effect on the eye is strange and alien in a way that his contemporaries never managed to capture.

Around 1939, De Chirico experienced a change of heart and adopted a Baroque style heavily influenced by Sir Peter Paul Rubens. Unfortunately, this was during the heyday of a few different non-Realist movements, and so most of his work went ignored or disregarded by critics. De Chirico then turned to self-forgery, both as a sort of intellectual revenge and in order to pay his bills.

His work influenced many different people. Aside from almost the entire Surrealist movement who attributed an influence to De Chirico at one point or another, there were also notables such as Sylvia Plath and Michelangelo Antonioni. Most recently, the video game Ico was heavily influenced by De Chirico's work: the European and Japanese boxart is a direct homage to De Chirico's "The Nostalgia of the Infinite".

De Chirico lived to be 90, and died in 1978 in Rome.


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