Giorgio de Chirico lived until the age of eighteen in Greece, where his father, a Sicilian engineer, was working on assignment. From 1903 to 1906 he studied fine arts at the Athens Polytechnic, attending evening classes in life drawing and spending his free time painting the boats in the port of Piraeus. In 1906 de Chirico went to Munich, studying at the Academy of Fine Arts for almost two years, where he made portraits and was influenced by the picturesque Böcklin style. After reading Nietzsche, the young painter was inspired to create a subject matter much bolder than what was usual in painting at the time. After living in Milan and Florence, which provided inspiration for his Piazze d'Italia, Arcades and Porticoes, de Chirico lived in Paris from 1911 to 1915. In his Montparnasse studio, he began his series Enigmas and Mannequins, yet it was only Apollinaire and the art dealer Paul Guillaume who took any notice of him. Returning to Italy during the war, he stayed in Ferrara from 1915 to 1918. It was there that he met Carlo Carrà and collaborated with him in the practice of metaphysical painting, creating the metaphysical interiors, Evangelical Still Lifes and the elaborate Mannequins. From 1918 to 1925 de Chirico settled in Rome and was a cofounder of the Valori Plastici group. De Chirico enjoyed the overtures of the surrealists, who made much of him, and collaborated with them in Littérature and La Révolution surréaliste.
In a clear rejection of his past, de Chirico began to do studies of the 15th-century masters in museums and the pictorial techniques of ancient treatises. In Paris, between 1925 and 1930, he carried this rejection even further in a 1926 exhibition of his Gladiators and Antique Horses at Galerie Rosenberg, which was violently attacked by the surrealists, and in painted sets for Diaghilev's ballet Bal de Rieti (1929). His novel Hebdoméros (1929) was the only evidence of his enduring genius. In 1935 he traveled to the United States, spending eighteen months in New York. He returned to Italy in 1939, painting fruit, nudes and realist scenes, as well as a commission for some portraits and metaphysical paintings. A retrospective at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, in 1955, attested to his prominence in the history of modern painting, while overlooking his later period. After this, de Chirico made lithographs, sculptures, book illustrations, sets and costumes for La Scala in Milan (most notably for Boito's Mephistopheles), as well as for the Rome Opera and the Teatro Comunale in Florence. In 1962, in Milan, he published his Memoirs, revealing his bitterness at having been misunderstood, as he had never come to terms with the fact that of all of his oeuvre, art lovers preferred the works of his youth. In 1975, when he was elected to the Académie des Beaux-Arts in Paris, de Chirico—having up till now been known simply as Chirico—announced to the press that he should henceforth be called de Chirico. In fact, according to French usage, the particle is used only if the last name has only one syllable, for instance, Musset and not de Musset. Thus it was that there was the incomparable painter, known to Apollinaire and the surrealists by the name Chirico, and the questionable executor of pastiches who succeeded him, called de Chirico. The retrospective, Giorgio de Chirico, Pictor Optimus, (the artist's self-proclaimed title), at the Palace of Exhibitions in Rome, from December 1992 to February 1993, showed the centaurs' combat from his pre-metaphysical period, the accomplishment of his self-portraits (one a nude, another in Renaissance garb) n which he arrogantly stares at the beholder, the masterpieces of his oeuvre between 1911 and 1923, and the works of his decline, including some undeniably surrealist paintings, including Return of Ulysses (from 1968 and 1973), where Ulysses' ship arrives in a sea-flooded room. In 2004 the Giorgio and Isa de Chirico Foundation organized an exhibition in the church of San Francesco a Ripa in Rome, titled The Passion According to de Chirico, that made the case for de Chirico as a painter of sacred art via his biblical scenes, his Crucifixion and twenty-two hand-colored lithographs titled Apocalypse.
Born 1888 at Volos, Greece; died 1978 in Rome.