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"Giorgio de Chirico and the Myth of Ariadne"
2003-01-22 until 2003-04-13
Estorick Collection of Modern Italian Art
London, , UK United Kingdom

The enigmatic paintings of Giorgio de Chirico (1888-1978), with their dream-like imagery of deserted city squares, filled with mysterious shadows, stopped clocks and sleeping statues, had a profound influence on modern art. These Metaphysical works began around 1912 with a series of eight Ariadne paintings in which the artist depicted a reclining statue of the princess of Greek mythology in an empty, sun-drenched piazza. According to the legend, Ariadne was abandoned by her lover, Theseus, on the desert island of Naxos, after he had slain the Minotaur with the aid of her thread which had helped him to navigate the labyrinth. The mystery and melancholy of these pictures, completed between the spring of 1912 and the autumn of 1913, resonate throughout the artist's long career.

This exhibition, which was first shown at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, brings together the entire Ariadne series, including such masterpieces as The Soothsayer's Recompense (1913), along with related drawings and sculpture, including an antique marble statue of Ariadne. This group of works, which would have such a powerful impact on the Surrealist paintings of Salvador Dali and Max Ernst, will be complemented by a selection of later paintings on the theme of Ariadne, whose serial approach foreshadows the work of Andy Warhol, a close friend of de Chirico in the 1970s.

To accompany the exhibition, a comprehensive catalogue has been published by the Philadelphia Museum in association with Merrell Publishers Ltd, including essays by Michael Taylor and Matthew Gale, Collections Curator at Tate Modern, London, as well as a recently discovered text by Max Ernst and an interview with Gerard Tempest, an artist who studied with de Chirico in Rome in the late 1940s. Over 60 works of art are reproduced in full colour.


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