If you're seeing this message, it means we're having trouble loading external resources on our website.

If you're behind a web filter, please make sure that the domains *.kastatic.org and *.kasandbox.org are unblocked.

Main content

Giorgio de Chirico, "The Anxious Journey"

To learn more about how abstract artists became the radical thinkers of their time, take our online course, Modern Art, 1880-1945 or Pigment to Pixel: Color in Modern and Contemporary Art. Created by The Museum of Modern Art.

Want to join the conversation?

Video transcript

(music) - [Anna Umland] I'm here in storage with Giorgio deChirico's 1913 painting, The Anxious Journey. 1913 was a breakthrough year for Giorgio deChirico. This work is probably one that was included in a exhibition that deChirico staged for himself in his studio in Paris, and among the people who came to see that show was the great poet and critic and champion of Avent Garde art, Guillaume Apollinaire. In October of 1913, Apollinaire wrote about his experience of deChirico's paintings, and he remarked on these painting's absolutely modern quality and then on their strangely metaphysical character. deChirico makes you think about how painting can be not about a reality perceived, but about a reality imagined. What you're looking at is a series of architectural arcades arranged in a space that has ways, that since the Renaissance artists had used to construct a plausible represenation of a believable negotiatable space. You have the orthogonals. You have recessive characters, but combined in a say that really doesn't add up. These colonnades lead nowhere, or you don't have the opportunity to know where they lead because the pallet is so somber and shadows fill almost very single one of them other than this one little sliver of blue sky and brick wall, or that of course, this looming, puffing locomotive, which many people have described as ominous or threatening, akin to a caged beast, and there definitely is something of that psychological, emotional tension by positioning this locomotive behind this brick wall. Following Apollinaire's lead, a number of the surrealist painters and poets like Andre Breton, or Rene Magritte seized upon deChirico's work as a key precursor for what surrealist painting should be. Arrested movement, convulsive beauty of these strange dream states, and I think that's one of the things that The Anxious Journey so beautifully exemplifies. 1913 remains as a year where so many of his signature motifs are first seen.