Giorgio de Chirico, Volos 1888 - 1978 Rome
Still Life with Fruit, mid-1960s
ProvenancePrivate collection, Milan (acquired directly from the artist).
“A talented painter who paints a still life is really painting the silent life of things created by nature and made by men. Nature and reality do not have aesthetic problems or artistic worries. It is the artist’s duty to give beauty to the things he sees and interprets.”—Giorgio de Chirico (G. de Chirico, “Le Nature morte” in L’Illustrazione Italiana, Milan 24 May 1942, p. 500)
Giorgio de Chirico embraced the genre of still life throughout his career—his very first painting was in fact a still life of lemons. From the late 1930s, the artist began to shift away from the metaphysical works for which he remains celebrated today, and instead sought inspiration in the art of the past, in particular the Baroque. Having published an essay entitled “Le nature-morte” in L’Illustrazione italiana in 1942, over the course of the next two decades, De Chirico undertook a series of still-life paintings, culminating in the large Still Life with Silverware (1962, private collection). Some of De Chirico’s still lifes allegorically represent a season, offer an allusion to some element in nature, or meditate upon the ephemeral quality of time, as is standard for the genre, yet his seemingly naturalistic renderings of conventional elements and expected compositions were often pervaded by the enigmatic atmosphere of his earlier metaphysical works.
The present still life, created in the 1960s, bears witness to de Chirico’s attentive study of the Old Masters, whose paintings in museum collections the artist carefully and copiously copied. The inspiration of Baroque still life, and in particular Caravaggio’s seminal Basket of Fruit (c. 1599, Biblioteca Ambrosiana, Milan), is instantly recognizable in the composition here, in which apples and a pear, commonly emblematic of mankind’s Fall from the Garden of Eden, grapes, symbolic of the Eucharist, and a ripe hunk of watermelon, which might allude to fertility, are piled in and around a high bowl situated upon a stone ledge set against a vibrant blue sky. Each piece of fruit is rendered with an almost hyper-realistic scrutiny, the artist emphasizing their material density, irregularities of form, and surface blemishes in a manner that underscores their peculiar distinctiveness despite their frankly quotidian nature. Saturated with a glowing, otherworldly light, this sumptuous work evokes the strange spaces and enigmatic twilights of de Chirico’s earlier metaphysical landscapes, proffering a wholly unique interpretation of one of the most iconic works of the resolutely traditional genre of still life painting.
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