a short-lived but significant Italian
movement, sprang from the chance
meeting 1917 of Carra , de Chirico and
the latter's brother, the poet (and occasional
painter) Alberto Savinio, in a military hos
pital in Ferrara. The two painters already knew of each other and formed an immediate alliance, being able to paint in the hospital, and were encouraged by Savinio's poetry. Carra had been among the leading painters of Futurism . De Chirico had been working in Paris, admired by Apolli
naire and avant-garde artists as a painter of mysterious urban scenes and still lifes.
Metaphysical Painting sprang from their
urge to explore the imagined inner life of
familiar objects when represented out of
their explanatory contexts: their solidity,
their separateness in the space allotted to them, the secret dialogue that may take place between them. This alertness to the
simplicity of ordinary things "which points
to a higher, more hidden state of being" ( Carra ) was linked to an awareness of such values in the great figures of early Italian painting, notably Giotto and Uccello
about whom Carra had written in 1915.
Their art, normally seen as purposeful
naturalistic representation of figures,
objects and actions in a controlled scenic
space, could also seem mysteriously still
and removed from the ordinary world; in
the midst of war it offered a poetic language
both in-turned and strong and a corrective
to the disruptive, fragmenting tendencies within Modernism.
This desire to reattach his art to the great Italian past was stronger in Carra , whose paintings of the time are also more economical and focused than de Chirico's ; the latter continued to explore the enigmatic nature of the daily world in a more wide-ranging manner.
The two artists were together for only a
few months in the spring and summer of 1917. Other painters were affected by their example and ideas, most notably Morandi .
The movement, as such, may be said
to have dissolved by 1920 but its reverberations were felt for a long time, contributing both to the more poetic aspects of Surrealism and to the revival of
classicism in the painting of Sironi and
others in the 1920S.