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Giorgio de Chirico

Italian, 1888–1978

© 2012 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / SIAE, Rome

The Anguish of Departure, 1913–14

Oil on canvas
33 1/2 x 27 1/4 inches (85.1 x 69.2 cm)
Room of Contemporary Art Fund, 1939

Giorgio de Chirico aspired “to live in the world as an immense museum of strange things, of curious variegated toys that change their appearance.” His goal was to turn everyday objects into something else in order to create feelings of uncertainty, mystery, alienation, and even fear. In The Anguish of Departure, the idea of departure is directly reflected in several ways: the train beyond the wall, the horse-drawn caravan in the foreground, and the two figures presumably saying goodbye. The concept of anguish is expressed through the scene’s unusual light and overall emptiness. Some of the elements in this painting likely refer to de Chirico’s life and experiences. For example, the death of his father, a railroad engineer, when the artist was sixteen years old might be alluded to in the painting in several ways: in the overall mood and title, as the departure of a parent is certainly a cause of anguish; in the train, which often appears in de Chirico's work; and in the tall tower, which the artist frequently included and is usually interpreted as a symbolic reference to a man, specifically his father, from whom he was separated. After his father’s death, de Chirico left Athens, Greece, where he grew up, and began to travel, which involved trains and required numerous departures. In his parents’ native Italy, he was fascinated by the wide Renaissance plazas and arcaded buildings, which frequently appear in his work. 

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