THE SUBJECT of this article is Giorgio de Chirico's relatively unexplored work of the autumn of 1913.* The paintings of those months are important for their heightened intensity, for their expansion of earlier themes, and, above all, as a breeding ground for the ideas elaborated during the following year. The autumn was also marked by the first article about the painter's work, written by the poet and influential champion of the avant-garde, Guillaume Apollinaire. De Chirico had probably met Apollinaire by the previous spring; but it was not until the events of the autumn that Apollinaire began to support him in print. The master-pieces of 1914 are the source of de Chirico's reputation, established through Apollinaire's writings and the later enthusiasm of the Surrealists. I In concentrating on the exploratory works of late 1913, this article will consider certain details, apparently overlooked until now, which throw light on the evolution of the themes in the paintings that followed.
A FINE SURVEY of late work by Fernand Lager (1881–1955) at the Whitechapel Art Gallery this winter' kindled memories of my encounter with the artist, then nearing his sixty-fourth birthday, at Rouses Point, N.Y., during the summer of 1945. This was the next-to-last year of Lager's wartime stay in the United States from November 1940 to December 1945, during which, he told an interviewer, 'I painted better than I ever painted before'. In the course of those five years he produced the Divers series with floating colour planes, the American landscapes, the Three musicians (1944), and worked on the Cyclist and Circus series that he was to develop more fully after his return to France.
A QUESTION and its answer. Are the painters still those painters who are painting the great cave? Do they paint the buffalo on the wall as hunger, the eagle as freedom, and the woman with a big bottom as love? Do they paint the buffalo as the table which magically sets itself?. Have they meanwhile left the cave, cleared out of the community and forgotten all those universal, comprehensible agreements, because magic does not still hunger, because flying does not work, and yearning for love does not breed love? Have they traded the cave for some other place? Propagandising about needs, 'What does man need?', feeds upon a yearning for freedom and the fear of death and entices us into taking another way, off the painters' course. The smart ones, hotshots, innovators, activists – in the forefront madmen and hotspurs – have remained within their own skulls. They proclaim plucky mottos: paintings should stick in the throat, eyelids should be nailed down, and hearts grabbed with pliers. Fishbone, air-raid, and separation. Well, one still sits together around the fire, warms up the studios, has had enough to eat and is in love. On battered canvases are those sumptuous ornaments filled with jumbled lines and rich colours; crystalline galleries hang over the frames. All that once stood erect, the still-life, has been knocked over, the landscape has been seized and uprooted, the interiors tangled and the portraits scratched and pierced.
A SELF-PORTRAIT of 1939 by Andre Derain has recently been acquired by the Tate Gallery from the Galerie Schmit in Paris (Fig.33). Although it has only recently left the Derain family it is one of the best known of the artist's late works, having appeared in every major Derain show, including the commemorative exhibition at the Musee Nationale d'Art Moderne in Paris in 1954–55, the Arts Council exhibition of 1967 and the exhibition at the Grand Palais in 1976. None of these catalogues has, however, attempted more than a brief description of the painting and there has been no attempt to read its rich imagery or to justify its didactic traditionisme. Nevertheless, the work's seriousness and monumentality have for decades impressed all those drawn to the ambitious paintings of Derain's late period, a period which we may yet learn to see as his greatest.
THE EXHIBITION of Lucian Freud's paintings has been amplified at its current London showing with some works on paper – a foretaste of an exhibition devoted to Freud's prints and drawings (whose catalogue has already appeared) which will open at the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford, in May. Much of this article arises from conversations which I have had with the artist whilst working on the early drawings and since seeing the exhibition.
THIS extensive, ambitious retrospective of the full career of Degas has been awaited with growing anticipation since plans for it were laid in 1983. The enterprise was bound to be massive and complex, given the size and range of Degas's oeuvre, the difficulties of tracing lost works, the fragility of his pastels, the logistical problems of organising a year-long show in three centres. The result, it must be said immediately, is a triumph, one of the most memorable and moving exhibitions imaginable. Jean Sutherland Boggs and her team, Henri Loyrette, Michael Pantazzi, and Gary Tinterow, aided by Douglas Druick, Anne Roquebert and others, deserve our gratitude and admiration.