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Lisa Sotilis - Giorgio de Chirico. Sculpture. Graphics

Greece will remain the queen of

beauty, culture and generosity forever

Lisa Sotilis 

Greece is the motherland for Giorgio de Chirico and Lisa Sotilis, the famous artists of the 20th century. The richest Greek history and mythology became a source for their inspiration to create.

Giorgio de Chirico was born to the famous Sicilian family in Volos on July 10, 1888. His father Evaristo de Chirico (1841–1905) was a railway engineer in Thessaly, and his mother Gemma Cervetto (1852–1936) descended from the Genoese family. After he had got basic education at the Athens Polytechnic Institute (1903–1906), Giorgio de Chirico entered the Higher Art School in Athens. His teachers were Georgios Jakobides (1853–1932) and Georgios Roilos (1867–1928), the prominent Greek artists of the time. Giorgio de Chirico went on studying at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Munich (1906–1909). The young artist was strongly influenced by symbolists Max Klinger (1857–1920) and Arnold Böcklin (1827–1901). It was in Munich, where the artist’s world view became the basis of his future metaphysical painting under the influence of the philosophy of Friedrich Nietzsche (1844–1900), Arthur Schopenhauer (1788–1860) and Otto Weininger (1880–1903), as well as the music by Richard Wagner (1813–1883). De Chirico enthusiastically studied culture and mythology, trying to find answers to his questions. He turned to the poetry of transformations as a way to discover the abilities of the viewer, and thought of the processes originated from the world of things.

Three years later, de Chirico returned to Italy, where his family lived in Florence. He made his first metaphysical pieces displaying his childhood memories, impressions of Greek culture, literature and contemporary philosophical moods. Giorgio de Chirico made the inscription ‘What else can I love if not a mystery?’ on the self-portrait of 1911 (oil on canvas, 70.5x54 cm, private collection). It became the artist’s credo.

De Chirico lived in Paris since 1911. He regularly travelled. The artist ran around with avant-garde masters Pablo Picasso (1881–1973), Georges Braque (1882–1963), André Derain (1880–1954) and Guillaume Apollinaire (1880–1918). The young artist was interested in modern avant-garde movements, in particular cubism with its analytical approach to the form. However, as Apollinaire said ‘De Chirico very soon refuses the Parisian avant-garde to create his art, where empty palaces, towers, symbolic objects and mannequins appear together...’.

Using the synthesis of various influences, de Chirico develops the foundations of metaphysical painting, which is featured by the poetry of immobility, tense form and color, sharp lines and effects of light and shade. The aesthetics of metaphysical painting were based on the denial of reality. The metaphor and the dream became the basis for thought to go beyond ordinary logic, and the contrast between a realistically depicted object and the strange climate in which it was placed enhanced the irreal effect.

The foundation of the group of artists, who espoused the aesthetics of metaphysical painting, took place in 1916. The founder of metaphysical painting de Chirico was joined by such masters as Carlo Carrà (1881–1966), Filippo de Pisis (1896–1956), the artist’s younger brother Andrea under the pseudonym Alberto Savinio (1891–1952), Giorgio Morandi (1890–1964) and etc. 

In the early 1920s, de Chirico improved his painting method in Rome and Florence. He moved to Paris in 1925. There he was enthusiastically accepted by the surrealists, paying tribute to his early metaphysical painting. At the time, de Chirico painted in a more traditional manner, working on monumental compositions on ancient themes. He again moved to Italy in 1932. He worked in the USA in 1935–1938. He lived in Rome since 1944. The artist worked in a rich ‘baroque’ manner in the post-war period. He made numerous copies of his metaphysical works of 1910–the 1920s. He ‘copies’ his early works, adding new details to them, bringing new meaning. The positive criticism called this period neo-metaphysical with its idea of the ‘eternal return’ of Nietzsche’s philosophy.

Giorgio de Chirico showed himself as a talented sculptor, drawing artist and engraver. He worked a lot on the set design and costumes for opera and ballet, and acted as an art theorist. He was the author of numerous philosophical studies, polemical articles and reviews, autobiographies, novels and poetry.

The artist turned to the sculpture relatively late, although his first ‘samples’ of the 1910s are known. In 1940, de Chirico at the age of 52 began to create terracotta figurines such as the horseman, Troubadour, Hector and Andromache, Muse and various copies of the Archaeologists. The solid heroes of his paintings and graphic works became more real and living. The second period of working on sculptural compositions began in 1968, when de Chirico at the age of 80 decided to cast his early terra cotta in bronze. The foundings of the late 1960s and 1970s were made in the Bonvicini foundry. It was founded in Verona in the 1960s. The artist thought: ‘If a sculpture is hard, it is not sculpture. Sculpture must be soft and warm; as such, it will not only have all of painting’s softness, but all of its colour also. A beautiful sculpture is always painterly’. De Chirico painted a number of his sculptures, for example, his ‘Sibyls’ (1970) displayed at the exhibition. He resurrected the traditions of polychrome ancient Greek sculpture.

Since the mid-1920s, the artist turned to engraving, working in the method of lithography and etching. He made the great cycles of illustrations for the ‘Calligrams’ by Guillaume Apollinaire (1930), ‘Secular Mystery’ (1928) and ‘Mythology’ (1934) by Jean Cocteau (1889–1963). De Chirico’s easel engravings recreate the images, plots and forms of his painting. The engravings of de Chirico, displayed at the exhibition, demonstrate heroes of Greek mythology, beautiful grand horses, endless and different mysteries of the master. Most of de Chirico’s later engravings were printed in the famous printing workshop of Alberto Caprini in Rome. It existed from 1950 to 1998.

The ancient world is a constant in the life and work of Giorgio de Chirico. The artist creativity is based on relations with Greece, the study of classicism or of the masters engaged in antiquity, and philosophical reflections. According to de Chirico, the renewal of the ancient through the process of imitation means discovering and understanding its internal essence to create new myths. De Chirico permanently turned to the past, deriving inspiration from it. The artist looks like his ‘The Archaeologists’ who, instead of reconstructing our past, are more like oracles making new mysteries.

Lisa Sotilis was born to the heroic Greek family in Athens. The family made a significant contribution to the independence of the nation. She is a graduate of the Brera Academy of Fine Arts in Milan. She took part in national and international exhibitions. The artist got prestigious awards as the Michetti National Prize (1958, 1959, 1960, 1962), the Ramazzotti Prize (1961), the Accademia Carrara Gold Medal (1961), Gold Medal of the President of the Italian Republic, etc.

Lisa Sotilis made her creative debut at the Armos Gallery in Athens in 1959. The following year, her personal exhibition was displayed at the Russo Gallery in Rome and at the Gian Ferrari Gallery in Milan in 1961. The works of the young artist were presented in the halls of the State Museums in Berlin in 1964. In 1965–1985, Lisa Sotilis worked for legendary collector and gallerist Alexander Iolas (Constantine Koutsoudis, 1907–1987) who worked together with the great masters of avant-garde art: Andy Warhol (1928–1987), René Magritte (1898–1967), Salvador Dali (1904–1989), Giorgio de Chirico and others. At this time, her exhibitions are held in Paris, New York, Los Angeles, Milan, Athens, Madrid, Rome, Venice, Geneva, Tokyo and Beirut.

Lisa Sotilis is an artist of many talents. She is an emotional painter, in whose palette warm and exotic colors and sensual hues are involved in an intricate, an endless and a bright play. She is the author of easel and monumental paintings (painting of the Chapel of St. Anthony of Padua in the Church of San Giovanni Battista alla Creta, Milan). As a passionate drawing artist, master of decorative arts and a world-famous jeweler, Lisa Sotilis is presented primarily as a talented sculptor. For several years, she was the only assistant to Giorgio de Chirico for his major sculptural projects financed by Alexander Iolas. It was Sotilis who retouched the artist’s wax models before casting in bronze. Like most of Giorgio de Chirico’s plastic works, the sculpture of Lisa Sotilis was cast using lost-wax method in the Bonvicini foundry in Verona. The most of the compositions are covered with 24 carat gold. The artist uses the same clean gold sometimes in combination with 22 and 18-carat one to make her jewellery.

The works of Sotilis are natural, easy and extremely poetic. The power of the artist’s poetry is in her natural faith coming from the very depths of ancient myths. This is a belief in own genes and ancient art. The myth with its complex metaphor is presented as a mystery that needs to be cracked in Lisa Sotilis’s works. The artist depicts the power of Greece as a sunny, an energetic and a powerful world in which joy is a dominant idea.

‘Lisa Sotilis’s creations go beyond the open windows that not only reach toward the outside, but to the inside of the artist, like some kind of optical illusion when two mirrors reflect each other and create something infinite. They are open windows to a consciousness forged by the wisdom of ancient Greece, fed – if we wish it so – by the law of contradiction, of colorful fantasy and reality, distant from modernity and spread by the fountain of myth and dreams’, – wrote Pierre Kaloussian, the Milan collector, art dealer and curator of her personal exhibitions.

Giorgio de Chirico and Lisa Sotilis turned ancient myths into modernity and created new myths, rethinking the fragments of the past, lost forever and imagined as the center of the golden age. They embody the philosophical concept of ‘eternal return’, demonstrating the continuous connection between the classic world and modernity.

Lisa Sotilis is known as a collector and a patroness of art. Her collection includes the works by contemporary artists and objects of ancient Greek, Chinese, Indian, Afghan, Mesoamerican and African art. In October 2020, Liza Sotilis donated to the National Art Museum of the Republic of Belarus the raiment (the second half of the 16th – early 17th century) that is a fine pattern of Italian weaving.