Although the relationship between the Italian artist Giorgio de Chirico and the Surrealists was an uneasy one to say the least; the Surrealists were highly critical of anything he painted post 1919 and de Chirico doesn’t have a good word to say about his dealings with the group, in his memoirs he describes Breton & Co as cretinous and hostile, it was de Chirico’s paintings of the metaphysical period that were undoubtedly the greatest single influence on visual Surrealism.His eerie vision of deserted piazzas and frozen cityscapes inspired and influenced Ernst, Dali, Magritte, Tanguy and Balthus among many others.
The 1914 painting of the poet and instigator of many a avant-garde movement, Guillaume Appollinaire (who also was the man to coin the term sur-realism, which he used to describe the Cubist ballet Parade, composed by Erik Satie) conveys a sense of enigmatic menace. A classical bust of a man wears the dark glasses of a blind man. His blindness paradoxically means that he can see what others can’t. He is the poet as seer. To his right there fossils of a fish and a sea-shell stamped on a precarious column. In the background there is a shadow of a man, the poet Apollinaire with a white outline marked on his cranium and shoulder, the suggestion is unmistakably of target areas. In WWI Apollinaire enlisted and was wounded in the head by shrapnel that led to a series of operations immediately before his death from influenza.