FORBIDDEN TOYS ON SHOW AT MONS MUSEUM OF FINE ARTS

Photo from the vernissage
Photo from the vernissage

Giorgio de Chirico’s Les Jouets Défendus (The Forbidden Toys),
a work recently acquired by Kunsthalle Praha and rarely presented outside of the Czech Republic, is on show at the Mons Museum of Fine Arts (BAM) within an exhibition of Belgian Surrealism.

Opening on February 16, 2019, the exhibition Giorgio de Chirico, aux origines du surréalisme belge: Paul Delvaux, René Magritte, Jane Graverol aims to show the influence of the Italian master and especially his early metaphysical works on the three Belgian surrealist painters until June 2, 2019.

The Italian artist painted the piece in 1915-16 in Ferrara, Italy. Forbidden Toys is emblematic of metaphysical painting, an art movement that influenced many surrealist artists in the 1920s, such as Max Ernst. The characteristics of the movement - dreamlike, unsettling, and dark – can all be seen in the painting The Forbidden Toys. The elongated, geometric figures and dark colors are typical of de Chirico’s painting style.

Giorgio de Chirico was an important figure in the surrealist art movement and was admired by fellow artists like Salvador Dalí and René Magritte. The Forbidden Toys will be on display along with around thirty other paintings by the artist and works by Belgian surrealists René Magritte, Jane Graverol, and Paul Delvaux.

Giorgio de Chirico – The Forbidden Toys (Les jouets défendus), 1915–1916, oil on canvas, 55,4 x 25 cm, Kunsthalle Praha, Prague
Giorgio de Chirico – The Forbidden Toys (Les jouets défendus), 1915–1916, oil on canvas, 55,4 x 25 cm, Kunsthalle Praha, Prague
Giorgio de Chirico – Playthings of the Prince (Les jouets du prince), 1915, oil on canvas, 55,4 x 25 cm, Museum of Modern Art, New York
Giorgio de Chirico – Playthings of the Prince (Les jouets du prince), 1915, oil on canvas, 55,4 x 25 cm, Museum of Modern Art, New York

The Forbidden Toys were for the first time exhibited at Giorgio de Chirico’s independent exhibition, on the Rue La Boétie Gallery in Paris in 1922. The painting was accompanied by one called Playthings of the Prince, which is similar to The Forbidden Toys not only in name, but also in the size of the canvas and its geometric composition. But these “twins” were separated in 1922, and have never been together since. Playthings of the Prince is now at the Museum of Modern Art in New York and The Forbidden Toys are part of the Kunsthalle Praha’s collection since 2017.


Metaphysical Painting

The name is derived from metaphysics, a philosophical branch about the abstract understanding of reality. Metaphysical painting is an Italian style whose father was the painter de Chirico. He surrounded himself with a very tight group of followers that veered from the contemporary avant-garde direction and had a more distinct concept of reality. According to him, people and things had a deeper, more mysterious and magical meaning. The movement emphasized the material nature of things through striking modeling, deep shadows and harsh light, geometric simplification and perfect perspective. The main theme of the style was a deserted city. Their inspiration was the Italian city, Ferrara, with its monumental architecture and statues in the streets. This scenery was realized through strange figures – puppets or mannequins – which represent the restricted and lonely man alienated from technical civilization. The mystery, magic, and removal of objects from their reality-based context created a new, seemingly objective reality, reminiscent of phantoms and revelations. Along with de Chirico, C. Carra, A. Savinio and shortly G. Morandi also belonged to the movement of metaphysical painting. The movement reached its peak around 1920, but in the first half of the decade, it became more incorporated into traditionalist Italian art. Its influence is most evident in surrealism and the German New Objectivity. The Czech artist closest to the movement was Jan Zrzavý.


Kunsthalle Praha is a newly emerging space for art and culture in Prague’s historical centre. It will offer visitors a wide range of exhibitions and educational projects, cultural events and social activities. Kunsthalle Praha’s mission is to contribute to a deeper understanding of Czech and international art of the 20th and 21st centuries and to communicate this with a dynamic, contemporary programme to a broad public.