Quality images are heavy...

Giorgio De Chirico can influence your photography – 1

April 4, 2020
Giorgio De Chirico photography

Giorgio De Chirico was an italian painter and writer. He was born in Greece on 10 July 1888, he died on 20 November 1978 in Italy. He founded the metaphysic artistic movement influencing also surrealism (but he wasn’t a surrealist!). He was interested in the real reality behind the material world, he thought that art was important to reach and find “the invisible essence” of life. Through his paintings he expressed solitude, melancholy, anguish, the mystery of life, his love for art… Painted scenes are strange and bizarre. Thanks to the great use of colors, shadows/lights and compositions his works have a strong visual impact. Each painting it’s an enigma to resolve, a metaphysical revelation (behind reality) like De Chirico himself said. I think that this artist can teach us a lot of things also in our photography; currently i’m studying his compositions and perspective, the way he painted lights and shadows and how he used colors. I’m fascinated by his vision.

Giorgio De Chirico: inspirations

At the beginning his art was influenced by Arnold Bocklin, mostly for subjects like Ulysses and greek myths. The italian painter has destroyed a lot of paintings made in that period. De Chirico’s works are extremely complex to decipher, each paint is an enigma to resolve. He painted a lot of signs and symbols but he isn’t a symbolist (like Bocklin, Klimt and in such way also Gauguin). De Chirico studied a lot and was profoundly influenced by Friedrich Nietzsche: the passing of time and the eternal return, mystery of life (X), Ecce homo, Zarathustra, the birth of tragedy with apollonian and dionysian, the myth of Arianna… In many works the implicit subject is Nietzsche; sometimes he made a parallelism between the famous philosopher and himself. To better understand De Chirico and his cryptic messages you have to know also something about Platon, Eraclito and also Schopenauer’s thoughts (melancholy and anguish, fate, destiny, dream)… De Chirico was a great intellectual, he read a lot, he said he was the only one who understood Nietzsche’s philosophy. At the same time he influenced other great modern artists like Picasso and the surrealism movement, Magritte as first.

Visual impact

Giorgio De Chirico had a great intuition: he understood the importance of visual impact in painting. His works are full in elements and signs each with hidden messages and interpretations. But at the same time he realized how was important in such way “the technique” to give a strong visual impact… He said that “without surprise a painting doesn’t work”, so it was important for him to shock viewer’s eyes painting alienating scenes. Surrealist was profoundly influenced by him. De Chirico was careful in the choice of colors and compositions. He tried to shock viewer’s eyes painting bizarre and strange scenes putting together many different elements in a place out space and time. Paintings are similar to a dream. The example is “The love song”, considered one of the best painting of modern era. Looking at it Magritte said that it was like “he was watching a thought”.

Giorgio De Chirico photography

When you see a painting like this one try to ask yourself: why I like this image? maybe for the color? Is it the composition or the mystery? Let’s try to read together the picture. This masterpiece shock your eyes putting together a big red glove with Apollo statue and a mysterious ball in the foreground. Scene is set outside, in a classic metaphysical space painted many other times by De Chirico. Look at contrast between complementary colors like red and green or hot vs cold and wonderful ocra reflexes (the color of the earth) over the white. As also other paintings De Chirico used black and white, the two extremes of the light. Look also at the triangular composition: three main elements in the scene. Riccardo Dottori, one of the most expert in deciphering De Chirico, gives the following interpretation in his book (Immagini metafisiche): Apollo statue is the icon of beauty (and also art that create beauty), glove pointing down (used also in other paintings) represents the duty/destiny, the ball is the play (maybe life?). De Chirico painted his love for beauty (art) in the cosmic play of life. This painting looks like a vision, a dream. The use of colors, the triangular composition, the bizarre given by these different elements put together create a strong visual impact that attracts the eye. Painting works!

Photography in such way is the same thing. Your photo can have good content but without a good visual impact the final result is not effective. Compositions, contrasts, colors and other technical elements are essential to please observer’s eyes; after attracting and striking his attention the message/meaning will be more effective and less trivial. I can do a lot of example with masters of photography. I think to Alex Webb: his photos literally shock your eyes, this is how this photographer “catches the observer”. Looking at his works you can see complementary colors, hot and cold colors put together, complex compositions with multiple elements on different ground, perspective and depth of the image (like in many De Chirico’s paintings), bizarre and strange scenes, mystery. Of course De Chirico mostly painted objects while Webb takes photos of humanity, but they have a lot in common. Not by chance Alex Webb love De Chirico’s paintings and studied his masterpieces.

This Webb’s photo is full of mystery, looks like a dream or a vision, it has a strong visual impact.

Giorgio De Chirico photography
Alex Webb

Other examples of strange and bizarre scene that looks like a dream catching your eyes.

Giorgio De Chirico photography
Joseph Koudelka

This photo taken by HCB looks like a metaphysical painting by Giorgio De Chirico. The man seems to be a mannequin turn on his back; look also at architectures and perspective.

street photography surrealism

Complexity of the scene

While some De Chirico’s paintings are flat (2D) others are characterized by the complexity of the scene; perspective given by architectures and multiple elements put in different layers create depth and tridimensionality in the whole painting.

Giorgio De Chirico photography

Giorgio De Chirico photographyGiorgio De Chirico photography

Giorgio De Chirico photography

In photography Alex Webb Is famous for his multilayers scenes. Many elements, perspective, cold and hot colors, triangular composition.

Giorgio De Chirico photography
Alex Webb

Giorgio De Chirico photography

Giorgio De Chirico photography
Henry Cartier Bresson


In the following article: architectures, perspective, composition, color…

That’s all folks


Stay well, have always light in your life

Best, F.S


Read also:

Art as life expression

Three things Vermeer has taught me

Three things Munch has taught me

Street photography: mental issues

The circular rhythm of life

Read more articles about Art clicking here

Follow me:

  • Leave a comment