Critics and historians frequently refer to the artistic trajectory set in motion by the paintings of Giorgio de Chirico, the man who paved the way for the most fascinating and significant developments in art between the two World Wars, as a “Copernican revolution”.

Realising that Cubism and the formal avant-garde had run its course, de Chirico set about realising his life’s mission, to become a painter who was able to “show that which cannot be seen”.

Employing a potent alchemical mixture of Metaphysics, Magical Realism, Surrealism and Neo-Romanticism, de Chirico set his quiet rebellion in motion and it wasn’t long before his unique artistic and philosophical perspective gained currency with his fellow painters.

In October 1909 the 21 year-old de Chirico visited Florence, where he first became aware of the mysterious relationship between objects as they appear and their deeper meaning. As he later wrote: “That was when I got the bizarre impression that I was seeing all of these things for the first time, and the painting’s composition revealed itself to my spirit.”

Florence has been one of the world’s most important artistic centres since the 13th century, its timeless beauty influencing the work of Michelangelo, Raphael, Leonardo da Vinci, Sandro Bottichelli, Donatello and Vasari. Perhaps there is something in the Florentine air that inspires and drives the creative force, from the sinuous, silvery presence of the Arno to this ancient city’s unforgettable and much-photographed Duomo.

It’s fitting, then, that the venue for an exhibition of de Chirico’s work should be Palazzo Strozzi, Florence. From 26 February to 18 July 2010 visitors will be able to view many of de Chirico’s most important paintings, along with a sample of key works by those that he most influenced.

Leading exponents of the unseen include de Chirico’s brother, Alberto Savinio, the French but Polish-born Balthus (Balthasar Klossowski de Rola), Switzerland’s Niklaus Stoecklin, German Dadaist Max Ernst and Belgian Surrealist, Rene Magritte.

These all contributed to the artistic direction taken during the main part of the twentieth century, a time in which the artist’s dreams were frequently considered more relevant and revealing than his or her waking experiences.

As de Chirico was later to confirm, the work of art became as much an enigma as the hallucinatory moment that inspired it.

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