Viewing Room

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Recto : Intérieur métaphysique (Interno Metafisico). Verso : Etude pour les jeux du savant

Graphite drawing on paper
Signed and dated lower right G. de Chirico. 1917
32 x 22 cm (12 ⁵/₈ x 8 ⁵/₈ inches)

- Mario Broglio, Rome, funder of the Valori Plasticimagazine (acquired in 1921 from the artist)
- Mario Broglio & Mario Girardon, partners of Valori Plastici, Rome
- Mario Girardon, New York (acquired in 1935)
- Lucy Chiantelli, New York 
- Pierre Matisse, New York (acquired for 40 $ on 10 march 1937- Inv. 587, La camera triste-erroneously « oil »)
- Henri Seyrig, director of the Musées de France (acquired on 15/12/45 for 175 $ directly from the Pierre Matisse Gallery)
- Delphine Seyrig collection, Paris (1978 - 1984)
- Private collection, Paris 
- Private collection, New York

- Palais Granvelle, Besançon, 1961, n°64, (La caméra triste, 1917)
- Alte Galerie, Kassel, 1964, n°4, (La caméra triste, 1917)
- Paolo Baldacci, "Chirico, La Métaphysique, 1888-1919", Flammarion, Paris, 1997, cat no D81a et 
D81b p. 428, repr. p. 362
- Paolo Baldacci, "Giorgio de Chirico, Betraying the Muse", ed. paolo Baldacci, New York-Milan, 1994, repr. p. 150-151

- Berlin, National galerie, "Das Junge Italien", 07/04 - 01/05/1921
- New Yrok, Pierre Matisse Gallery, n.5 : La chambre triste,1937
- Paris, Musée de la Poste, "Aragon et l'art moderne", 12/04 -19/09/2010
- Metz, Centre Pompidou, "1917", 25/05 - 24/09/2012, repr. p. 124
- Paris, Galerie Natalie Seroussi, "Talkie-Walkie", 08/06 - 27/07/2013
- Ferrara, Palazzo dei Diamanti, "De Chirico a Ferrara 1915-1918", 14/11/2015 - 28/02/2016
- Stuttgart, Staatsgalerie, "Giorgio de Chirico. Magie der Moderne", 18/03/2016 - 03/07/2016, exhibition catalogue repr. p.78.
- Metz, Centre Pompidou "Oskar Schlemmer," 12/10/2016 - 16/01/2017

Born in Greece, Giorgio de Chirico began his studies in the cradle of classical culture, then, in 1908, went to study at the academy of fine arts in Munich, where he discovered the works of Nietzsche and Schopenhauer as well as those of Böcklin, Wagner, and de Klinger. De Chirico developed the foundations of a new artistic conception alongside his brother Alberto Savinio.

After periods spent in Milan and Florence, he moved to Paris in the fall of 1911. There, de Chirico met the artistic and literary avant-garde figures of the day and established his aesthetic vocabulary. He was discovered by Guillaume Apollinaire, who introduced him to his first dealer, Paul Guillaume. The term "metaphysical," invented by Apollinaire, refers to the enigmatic power of the inanimate objects gathered in a room or scattered across a lifeless urban landscape. De Chirico also found inspiration in the spatial distortions of the cubists and in Renaissance and neo-classical architecture.

Upon returning to Italy in 1915, he and his brother were sent by the army to the Ferrare region; there he fully developed his metaphysical approach to painting. At the beginning of 1917, de Chirico was temporarily posted to Poggio Renatico, near Ferrare, where he found it impossible to work. He went from there to the Villa de Seminario, a military hospital for those with nervous conditions that was actually more like a vacation resort.

Carlo Carrà, whom the brothers had met in Ferrare, was staying at the villa at the same time as de Chirico. De Pisis, who visited Carrà and de Chirico at the Villa, described the situation, saying: "In a quiet eighteenth-century patrician villa in the countryside, once the site of the honest summer activities of the Seminary, the painters de Chirico and Carrà, dressed in army fatigues, alternated between military idleness and Metaphysical painting." (Paolo Baldacci, "Chirico La Métaphysique, 1888-1919," Flammarion, Paris, 1997, p. 359.) De Chirico and Carrà stayed at the Villa until August, 1917.

During that year, a misconception arose around the notion of metaphysical painting as an "artistic movement" created more or less equally by several people and emerging toward the end of the war. In fact, though de Chirico was largely unknown at the time, Carrà began to be known in the art market in relation to his involvement with the futurist movement. He was strongly influenced by de Chirico, though he never gave him credit for it.

"We then found ourselves in a kind of hospital, or more precisely, a convalescent home, several miles from Ferrare. ( … ) When Carrà saw me working on metaphysical paintings, he went to Ferrare, bought some canvases and paints and began reproducing, without however showing my facility, the subjects that I was working on—and all with a brazenness and shamelessness that was really remarkable. Having received a lengthy period of time off for his convalescence, Carlo Carrà soon returned to Milan, taking along with him the "metaphysical" paintings that he'd done in the house at Ferrare; once there, he set about organizing an exhibition of these paintings in the hope, no doubt, of convincing his contemporaries that he was the sole and unique inventor of metaphysical painting, and that I was merely his modest and obscure imitator." Giorgio de Chirico, 1945 (ibid, p. 350).

In 1917, de Chirico created eleven paintings and nineteen drawings "almost all in the new 'Ferrarian' style, precise and 'accomplished.'" (Ibid, p. 359). Our drawing, which is unusual in that it's one of only two sheets in this body of work with drawings on both sides, marks a turning point in de Chirico's œuvre. 

In Ferrare, the role that drawing played in his artistic process changed; previously used for preparatory sketches, his drawings became finished works in their own right, intended for public view. There were several reasons for this; for one, while he was a soldier, de Chirico had fewer opportunities to do paintings, but above all, his working method changed. He had mastered the mechanism for transforming his visions into finished paintings, and so he no longer needed to get the inspirational moment down on paper—he had become capable of rendering his vision directly. From then on, he was able to transcribe emotion more fluidly. "The drawings from Ferrare are almost all fully achieved, thoroughly worked, and meticulously detailed; they are truly paintings on paper." (Ibid, p. 317) These drawings were shown by Paul Guillaume in France as well as in galleries in Italy. 

The recto of this drawing, Intérieur métaphysique(Metaphysical Interior) is extremely accomplished. It's a "metaphysical" composition of an interior that includes a dressmaker's dummy, a compass, a set-square, and fragments of furniture and baroque stucco. It was inspired by the Seminary setting. These elements are characteristic of de Chirico's metaphysical interiors. 

On the back, there's a study for the painting Les jeux du savant(The Scholar's Playthings), a painting that can be precisely dated to "May 1917" and is composed of anatomical plates on geometrical blocks as well as a factory, set-squares, a striped staff, and a board divided into colored triangles (Image 1).

"A new atmosphere inundated my soul—I heard a new song—the entire world seemed now completely transformed—the autumn afternoon arrived—the long shadows, the limpid air, the gay sky—in a word, Zarathustra arrived, do you understand me?" It was in these enigmatic terms that, in January 1911, Giorgio de Chirico described the emergence of the "metaphysical" phase of his art to his friend Fritz Gartz.

1. Giorgio de Chirico, Les jeux du savant, 1917, oil on canvas, The Minneapolis Institute of Arts, Minneapolis