Mystery and Creation – Giorgio de Chirico
To become truly immortal a work of art must escape all human limits: logic and common sense will only interfere. But once these barriers are broken it will enter the regions of childhood vision and dream.
Profound statements must be drawn by the artist from the most secret recesses of his being; there no murmuring torrent, no birdsong, no rustle of leaves can distract him.
What I hear is valueless; only what I see is living, and when I close my eyes my vision is even more powerful.
It is most important that we should rid art of all that it has contained of recognizable material to date, all familiar subject matter, all traditional ideas, all popular symbols must be banished forthwith. More important still, we must hold enormous faith in ourselves: it is essential that the revelation we receive, the conception of an image which embraces a certain thing, which has no sense in itself, which has no subject, which means absolutely nothing from the logical point of view, I repeat, it is essential that such a revelation or conception should speak so strongly in us, evoke such agony or joy, that we feel compelled to paint, compelled by an impulse even more urgent than the hungry desperation which drives a man to tearing at a piece of bread like a savage beast.
I remember one vivid winter’s day at Versailles. Silence and calm reigned supreme. Everything gazed at me with mysterious, questioning eyes. And then I realized that every corner of the palace, every column, every window possessed a spirit, an impenetrable soul. I looked around at the marble heroes, motionless in the lucid air, beneath the frozen rays of that winter sun which pours down on us without love, like perfect song. A bird was warbling in a window cage. At that moment I grew aware of the mystery which urges men to create certain jpfrange forms. And the creation appeared more extraordinary than the creators.
Perhaps the most amazing sensation passed on to us by prehistoric man is at of presentiment. It will always continue. We might consider it as an eternal proof of the irrationality of the universe. Original man must have wandered tirough a world full of uncanny signs. He must have trembled at each step.
The present text was written during this phase and before his return to Italy in 1915. It was first published by Andre Breton in his Surrealism and Painting, Paris, 1928.