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

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  • Giorgio de Chirico, 'The Uncertainty of the Poet' 1913
    Giorgio de Chirico
    The Uncertainty of the Poet 1913
    Oil on canvas
    support: 1060 x 940 mm
    frame: 1232 x 1125 x 73 mm
    Purchased with assistance from the Art Fund (Eugene Cremetti Fund), the Carroll Donner Bequest, the Friends of the Tate Gallery and members of the public 1985© DACS, 2002
  • Giorgio de Chirico, 'The Melancholy of Departure' 1916
    Giorgio de Chirico
    The Melancholy of Departure 1916
    Oil on canvas
    support: 518 x 359 mm
    frame: 682 x 524 x 70 mm
    Purchased 1978© DACS, 2002
  • Max Ernst, 'Celebes' 1921
    Max Ernst
    Celebes 1921
    Oil on canvas
    support: 1254 x 1079 mm
    frame: 1397 x 1210 x 102 mm
    Purchased 1975© ADAGP, Paris and DACS, London 2002

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.