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Installation view of Horses: The Death of a Rider. Paintings by Giorgio de Chirico

Installation view

Giorgio de Chirico: Horses: The Death of a Rider, 2023; 

Artworks © 2023 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / SIAE, Rome;

Pohot by Argenis Apolinario

It’s usually too soon to write off what might seem, at first glance, a great artist’s less compelling work, as these small paintings would make abundantly clear if nothing else did. For more than a hundred years, Giorgio de Chirico has been revered for the so-called metaphysical paintings he made before, during, and right after the first World War. Then, in 1919 according to John Ashbery, de Chirico’s painterly genius “evaporated,” and he moved on to subjects radically different from the flatly painted and vividly titled empty town squares and arcades, smoking trains, vacant gloves, dressmaker’s dummies, archaic busts, vanishing point vistas, and anonymous civic statues that occupied his canvases starting about 1912. Radically different on one hand, déjà vu on the other: the Italian artist who, along with the original cubists, had virtually invented the mental landscape of modernism was now painting Roman gladiators, Greek temples, still lifes of grapes and flowers, portraits commissioned by the wealthy, self portraits in Venetian carnival costume, and, as here, battle scenes and horses and riders.