In October 2011, the Fondazione Giorgio e Isa de Chirico donated to the Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris a total of 61 pieces comprising paintings, sculptures and graphic work produced by the artist late in his life. Upon entering the Palais de Tokyo there was no sign of the event. After asking three museum guides for directions to the exhibit rooms, I found them buried next to the Surrealists and the German Neue Sachlikheit paintings with no more than a brief reference to the new arrivals on the left wall of the first room. Has De Chirico become untrendy? ? I would have to reply in the affirmative, given the display offered by the museum curators to George Baselitz’s current sculpture exhibition. One of his standing pieces presides over the lobby, a colossal wooden figure. The public is asked to pay to visit the Baselitz show. The De Chirico exhibition as the rest of the museum is free.
I always had a weakness for De Chirico. To me, he was one of the most recognizable painters during my growing years and that fact filled me with self-importance. Later, his dreamscape resonated with my adolescent moods and I somehow felt that his canvasses were always talking to me and showing me the way of my emotions as I struggled to make sense of the world. The way I responded to De Chirico’s aesthetic insinuations changed as I became an adult and what these days remains in memory is an exquisite melancholy, a puzzled symbolism (always on the edge of identification) and a classical form both simple and clear. His metaphysics and writings (he wrote a surrealist novel called Hebdomeros) are just dense complements to his visual force.
At the exhibition, I remained intrigued by his self-portrait with his wife. While she stares defiantly at the viewer in a reddish glow as mistress of her own universe, he seems desolate and worried, prepared to step out of the painting and tell us about his weariness. De Chirico always suffered from poor digestion and who knows if this added to his intellectual melancholy and angst.
Later in the museum library I enquired about any publication commemorating this bequest. The lady in charge gave me a puzzled look as if I had asked to see Napoleon coming out of the shower (a suggestion that no doubt De Chirico would have seized upon).