Ge ChenFollow

Semester of Graduation

Summer 2019


Master of Arts (MA)


Art History

Document Type




A subtle transformation in the fundamental cognition of a generation could trigger overwhelming ripples throughout the society. Time as an essential concept went through tempestuous changes in late nineteenth-century Europe because of the revolutionary development in railway system. Art world in cross-century Europe also witnessed unprecedented upheavals. Founder of Metaphysical Painting, Giorgio de Chirico was born to that age and was renowned for his complicated opinion towards modernism. This thesis intends to present how the change in the basic perception of time permeated the society, influenced ways of production, inspired art movements, and got reflected in art works.

Railway and universal time systems integrated the world into a whole for the first time. As a result, a universal acknowledgement of simultaneity came into being, which brought along a sense of connection worldwide. With the help of the mass production of clocks, such sense of connection encouraged a new pattern of production, which turned an individual’s time into collective social resource. The rapid developments in technology and the unprecedented productivity created social spectacles that could represent the highest standard of the present and a tempting signal that indicated future. Attempting to access the promising future, modern artists tried to be the pioneer of their age by disentangling themselves from academic tradition. Giorgio de Chirico, founder of Metaphysical Painting and a modernist, remained sober and solitary in modernism. Influenced by Nietzsche, de Chirico tried to regain his peace in eternity through metaphysical paintings, and later in his life, through academic tradition.

Committee Chair

Darius A. Spieth