Art: Looking Backward

No living artist enjoys a more bizarre reputation than the Italian painter Giorgio de Chirico. Up to 1918, he turned out a body of work that set him firmly among the masters of European modernism. His "mysterious objects," moonstruck piazzas and tilting, empty colonnades fascinated the Surrealists and became one of the inspirations of their movement. René Magritte and Salvador Dali were both De Chirico's debtors; Yves Tanguy resolved to be a painter only after seeing an early De Chirico in a dealer's window in 1923. André Breton, the pope of Surrealism, hailed...

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