Magritte The Lovers 1928 1
1. René Magritte The Lovers 1928
2. Giorgio de Chirico The Great Tower 1914

Railway Stations and Minotaurs: gender in the paintings of Giorgio de Chirico and Pablo Picasso
The young Magritte recovered his mother’s lifeless body from the river in which she had committed suicide, her head was covered by her white nightdress (Fig. 1).

The history of creative expression provides numerous examples of cathartic transference. A particularly poignant twentieth-century example exists in Orson Welles’ film Citizen Kane (1941). It occurs in the sequence when Kane, on his deathbed, barely audibly mutters his last dying words...Rosebud, Rosebud. The intriguing Rosebud turns out not to be the name of his wife, mother, mansion, yacht, or even his vast publishing empire, but the name he gave to his boyhood sled, which slipped from his grasp one blustery winters day never to be seen again.

In terms of their influence on other artists and movements Picasso and De Chirico were two of the major forces that shaped the course of twentieth-century painting.  Amongst the many elements that shaped them were their respective filial experiences. The loss of the father and his pictorial reincarnation in the case of de Chirico; and the Oedipal removal of the father in favour of the maternal line, in the case of Picasso. In the parent/loss/creativity thesis it is significant that both artists were incredibly prolific over a long period of time (approaching eight decades) since this facilitates the examination of their paternal and maternal tendencies at different periods in their oeuvre. During the process of either leading new art movements or significantly contributing to their development, both maintained strong personal identities. In fact, their obsessional need to create bordered on a near pathological desire to be prolific, which in some instances led them to be purposefully repetitive. This is a condition that often manifests itself when trauma, caused by childhood loss, becomes a formative and focal element in an artist’s work. Philip Guston, who was influenced by both De Chirico and Picasso, could well be cited as just such an artist, because he too suffered parental loss at a young age.

The incapacity to come to terms with childhood or adolescent loss is one of the mainstays of psychoanalytical theory concerning certain aspects of creativity, and one might add, obsessional forms of prolific creativity. “What is it our pleasure to paint today?” …was a phrase that De Chirico would recite each morning when sitting down in front of his easel. In some instances he would paint the same theme over and over again, as in the Piazza d’Italia series of paintings (Fig. 2). They are without doubt his most restated compositions and numerous examples were painted during his lifetime. Some critics have attributed this repetitive act to purely mercenary gain, mental laziness or lack of inspiration. However, even the simplest and most cursory reading of these works reveals their formulaic significance. Put simply, their iconography reveals them to be a type of ex-voto painting and as such places them outside of any modernist canons of reductive uniqueness. On the contrary they reaffirm ancient visual

The Great Tower 1914 de Chirico 2