Giorgio de Chirico was born to an Italian family living in Greece and studied in Athens, Florence and Munich, where he was influenced by Nietzsche's philosophy and Arnold Böcklin's Symbolist art. In 1910, de Chirico moved to Paris where he made contact with Picasso and befriended Guillaume Apollinaire, French poet and leader of the avant-gardistic movement rejecting poetic traditions in outlook, rhythm, and language. In Paris he began to produce highly troubling dreamlike pictures of deserted cities, eg. The Great Tower, The Soothsayer's Recompense, Mystery and Melancholy of a Street — pictures with fantastic combinations of images that carried a charge of mystery, and repteted use of haunting iconography.
In 1917 in the Ferrara military hospital, de Chirico met the painter Carlo Carrà, and together they founded Metaphysical painting. Although the movement was short-lived, it was perhaps the most original and important movement in the Italian art of the 20th century, and considered by critics the highest point in de Chirico's painting career. De Chirico's Metaphysical paintings were hugely influential on Surrealist artists, who recognized in them the eloquent expression of the unconscious and nonsensical to which they themselves aspired. In 1918 de Chirico and Carrà contributed to the periodical Valori Plastici which gave a literary aspect to Metaphysical painting.
By the 1930s, however, de Chirico renounced all his previous work and reverted to an academic style, and to his study of the techniques of the old masters. His great interest in archeology and history took the form of Neo-Baroque paintings full of horses, still-lifes, and portraits. The Surrealists, in particular, condemned his later work.