Giorgio de Chirico and the Nonsense of Life: Nietzsche, Schopenhauer, Metaphysical Painting

NAGAO Takashi

Giorgio de Chirico (1888-1978) says in his essay “We Metaphysicians...” (1919) that his metaphysical paintings are attempts to apply to painting the “nonsense of life” proposed by Arthur Schopenhauer (1788-1860) and Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900). Some researchers regard De Chirico’s “nonsense” as an absence of absolute sense, in other words, a relativity of sense that derives from the absence of defined context among signs. The theoretical base for this “nonsense,” however, has never been concretely discussed.
Schopenhauer uses the word “nothingness” (Nichtigkeit) to describe the “nonsense of life,” whereas Nietzsche uses “nonsense” (Unsinn, Sinnlos). Schopenhauer’s “nothingness” implies the essential vanity and endless suffering of life caused by “Will” as a metaphysical existence. Perception of this “nothingness” leads man to negation of “Will,” through which he is freed from the “principle of sufficient reason,” namely, the forms of relationships among representations. Nietzsche’s “nonsense,” in contrast, implies the absence of such a metaphysical existence. When this metaphysical presence as an ultimate convergence point of all causality and logic disappears, the order of relationships among things that maintains itself by converging toward that point also collapses. This is the theoretical base for the absence of defined context among the signs in De Chirico’s metaphysical paintings.

Keywords: Giorgio de Chirico, nonsense, Nietzsche, Schopenhauer