Thoughts are the shadows of our feelings – always darker, emptier, and simpler – Friedrich Nietzsche

Gare MontparnasseVast empty spaces. Creeping shadows. Watchful statues. Imposing architecture. Distant, obscured figures. Put together, they bring to life a dream world, without logic but embodying truth. This is the world of Giorgio de Chirico, a leader of the metaphysical art movement and a master of creating what he calls “die Stimmung,” a German term that refers to the presence of an emotional atmosphere. His is a world of introspection, melancholy, loneliness, and anxiety. You feel as if you have trespassed on the border of life and death, reality and fantasy.

The sensation is eerie.

The Nostalgia of the Infinite

Existence really is an imperfect tense that never becomes the present. – Friedrich Nietzsche

Nostalgia of the InfiniteThe first step into this strange world is unsettling, and the reason why is not immediately apparent. Gradually, you become aware that you stand in the shadow of the building looming to your right. Before you, the dying sun illuminates the landscape, but you are cut off.  From the corner of your eye, you glimpse a shadow emerging from the side. A sense of foreboding comes over you.

The tower draws your gaze. You see the one side bathed in light, the other cloaked in darkness. The edifice shows no sign of decay yet the design is of a past age. Both youth and age characterize this tower. It stands in the light and in the shadows at the same time. It is a contradiction, a paradox. Perhaps that is the true nature of infinity.

The Enigma of a Day

Let us beware of saying death is the opposite of life. The living being is only a species of the dead, and a very rare species. – Friedrich Nietzsche

The Enigma of a DayTwo stand side by side in the distance. They appear only as silhouettes created by the sun. Who are they? What are they doing? Why are they here? The questions go unanswered. It seems unlikely that they are engaged in normal, everyday activities. That would be too… human for these shades. They seem to belong to a netherworld. Perhaps the arches are passages to their world. Who can tell?

Ironically, the statue seems less inhuman; an image of a person, forever frozen and alive in a way. The idea is reassuring. Yet its gaze directs your attention to the train that peeks from behind the pillar. The train implies transience, that this place is just one stop on its path towards the final destination. The sense of foreboding returns.

The Song of Love

There is always some madness in love. But there is also always some madness in reason. – Friedrich Nietzsche

The Song of LoveIt is the nature of humans to imbue even the most mundane of objects with meaning. Thus the montage becomes a crucial element of metaphysical art. The objects, put together, only encourage further interpretation and each interpretation differs depending on the interpreter. Nietzsche insists that love is the key to enduring the trials of life. Art represented by the bust of Apollo and science represented by the glove may be the loves that carry us through the world.

Yet the train remains ever-present, ever shadowed in the distance.

About Giorgio de Chirico

Giorgio de Chirico was born July 10, 1888 in Volos, Greece to Evaristo de Chirico, a railway engineer, and Gemma Cervetto. As a child, De Chirico was taught to draw by a young employee at his father’s railway company, Mavrudis. This teacher would be the first significant influence on De Chirico’s art career. In his memoir he states “When I found myself in the presence of Mavrudis I looked at him, and as I looked I wandered into a world of dream and fantasy.” After the death of his father, De Chirico moved with his family to Munich where he was exposed to the ideas of Friedrich Nietzsche that he later incorporated in his art. In the years afterward, he embarks on the creation of metaphysical artwork, his greatest legacy to art and culture…

Further Information

The Museum of Modern Art

Fondazione Giorgio e Isa de Chirico