Art Term

Metaphysical Art

Metaphysical Art (the translation of the Italian Pittura Metafisica) was an early twentieth century Italian art movement typified by dream-like views of eerie arcaded squares with unexpected juxtapositions of objects

Giorgio de Chirico, ‘The Uncertainty of the Poet’ 1913
Giorgio de Chirico
The Uncertainty of the Poet 1913
Tate
© DACS, 2017

Metaphysical Art is the translation of the Italian Pittura Metafisica, a movement created by Giorgio de Chirico and the former futurist, Carlo Carra, in the north Italian city of Ferrara. Using a realist style, they painted the squares typical of such Italian cities but the squares are unnaturally empty, and in them objects and statues are brought together in strange juxtapositions. The artists thus created a visionary world of the mind, beyond physical reality – hence the name.

Strictly speaking the movement only lasted the six months or so of 1917 that De Chirico and Carra worked together, De Chirico changing his style the following year. However the term is generally applied to all De Chirico’s work from about 1911 when he first developed what became known as Pittura Metafisica. His The Uncertainty of the Poet of 1913 is a quintessential example of the style.

Pittura Metafisica was also highly influential, most importantly on the development of the dream-like, or oneiric, kind of surrealist painting, particularly that of Max Ernst.

Selected artworks in the collection