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The following text is an investigation into implicit and explicit gender influences in the work of the Italian artist Giorgio de Chirico (1888-1978) and the Spanish artist Pablo Picasso (1881-1973). It proposes that in terms of gender these artists were diametrically opposed, one driven by the paternal family line, the other by the maternal; one seeking after the physical and the Dionysian (Picasso), the other after the metaphysical and the Apollonian (de Chirico).

In "Limits Not Frontiers of Surrealism", André Breton, the most influentual of the Surrealist writers and theoreticians, claimed that the "intervention of Picasso and Chirico in the domain of painting" in 1914, caused "visual forms of representation" to hence forth change. (Breton 1937: eng., trans.1978, What is Surrealism, p.153).

Pablo Picasso once fondly referred to Giorgio De Chirico as the painter of railway stations. De Chirico, in an equally brief but also admiring comment, described Picasso as a painter of bullfights and big women. The following text reveals that these seemingly casual summaries of each others work were in fact more astute then either may have realised.

1. Giorgio de Chirico The Song of Love 1914
Railway Stations and Minotaurs: gender in the paintings of Giorgio de Chirico and Pablo Picasso
The gender influences that shaped the oeuvre of De Chirico and Picasso was not the product of parental presence, but the contrary and often far more impacting condition caused by absence. Trauma resulting from actual and symbolic loss is one of the most disturbing experiences that our psyche has to confront, and nowhere more so than in the susceptible psyche of the child or adolescent. A certain amount has already been written on this theme in relation to the pathological development of artists: Freud on Leonardo (1919); Liebert on Michelangelo (1983); and Wolfenstein on RenĂ© Magritte (1974). The pathographic link between Magritte’s paintings and the trauma caused by his mother’s suicide, which occurred during his adolescence, has drawn the clinical gaze of several psychoanalysts. The visual linkage is in fact fairly opaque and a somewhat ripe model for the reinforcing of psychoanalytical theories. On the other hand the infinitely more subtle compositions of De Chirico have been passed over by the self same group. This is a surprising oversight given Magritte’s declaration that on seeing De Chirico’s The Song of Love (1914) he broke down and cried because for the first time he realised that painting was capable of achieving profound forms of poetic expression (Fig. 1). De Chirico’s paintings not only exemplified this, but also demonstrated the psychological potential that is unleashed when emotions are transferred to a surrogate object. A realisation that could well be unpacked along the lines that one can achieve catharsis through the act of ‘poetic’ painting and even hypercathexis via a form of virtual object transference. This realization enabled Magritte to create a pictorial form of cathartic reliving associated with his mother’s tragic death. Jung and the trauma theorists refer to this as an act of abreaction. (Jung 1961)