With its collections of ancient, modern and contemporary art, the Musée de Grenoble offers you a chance to traverse the history of western painting from the 13th to the 20th centuries. Included are major masterpieces of classical Flemish, Dutch, Italian and Spanish painting; one of 20th century Europe’s richest collections; and all the great post-1945 contemporary art trends, right up to the most recent artworks of the 2000s.
The Italian painter Giorgio de Chirico, who was born in Greece, visited Italy’s major cities in 1911, and settled for a while in Florence. His first “metaphysical paintings”, exhibited from 1912 on in Paris, were noticed by Apollinaire because of their strangeness: nostalgia for an old, vanished order is recreated in them by shrewd lighting effects, dense shadows, a palette with sharply contrasted hues, and, above all, the disconcerting juxtaposition of unexpected objects. These visions of a dreamlike world would later win over the Surrealists.
Donated by the artist Paul Guillaume’s dealer, this painting clearly conveys Giorgio de Chirico’s development after 1920. The subject—a pair of dummies—belongs to the world which the artist formed from 1915 on, perfectly illustrated by the series of Disquieting Muses. Here, the dummies are depicted as busts, part of their body and their clothing being made up of architectural elements with arcade motifs. In this ambiguous space, Husband and Wife seem to come from one and the same torso, draped in the style of Antiquity. Their two heads—egg-shaped volumes in grey tones—stand out against a backdrop formed by a cloudy sky. This picture can be compared to a 1917 painting, and also to a drawing of that same year in which we also find half-length figures.
The vigour, the monumentality of the composition and the “fa presto” or “speediness” of the technique make this a typical work of de Chirico’s world, in which the legacy of the classical culture mingles with a symbolist climate specific to the artist’s imagination.
Giorgio de Chirico, Volos (Greece)
Husband and Wife, 1926
© Musée de Grenoble