Art: Real, Fake & Real Fake

The ghostly landscapes and empty plazas that Giorgio De Chirico painted in the decade before 1920 rank the Italian artist as the most influential forerunner of surrealism. In the late '20s his paintings were so much in demand that he secretly took to selling them himself, circumventing an exclusive contract with a Paris dealer. The dealer promptly retaliated by selling De Chiricos so cheap that the artist swore lifelong vengeance on all art dealers as unscrupulous leeches.

After a painful self-examination. De Chirico emerged in 1930, at the age of 41, with a radical...

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