2. Working methods and technique
Source: Oxford University Press
De Chirico’s early paintings show a sparing use of paint, reflecting perhaps in part his financial situation, although it was also a characteristic of the avant-garde works of the time: his use of dry, flat colours relates to works of Analytical Cubism, while the exposed areas of canvas recall the Fauves. Despite having studied in two academies, his early figure painting, inspired by Böcklin, still betrayed deficiencies of anatomical knowledge. It was not until his years in Rome from 1919 to 1924 that he began to take an interest in technique. Since he believed that the popularity of 17th-century painting during the early 1920s was due to the ease with which oil paintings could be faked, he concentrated instead of tempera. His research led him to make copies from the Old Masters, and in this he was encouraged by the restorer Nicolai Locoff and the painter Enrico Betterini. The resulting paintings have the dry, bright, detailed appearance typical of tempera.
About 1925, de Chirico became interested in the rich brushwork of Gustave Courbet, and on his return from Paris in 1931 he studied Velázquez and Rubens. In 1928 he published a treatise on painting technique. The fruit of his inquiry was the development of emulsions, which allowed the overlaying of translucent brushstrokes without those underneath losing their consistency. De Chirico may have derived this technique from his work in pastels during the 1920s. This allowed him to increase the density of the paint layers and to achieve effects of great richness in the neo-Baroque period from 1947 to 1965. Paradoxically, many of his paintings from these years show extensive cracking, suggesting that he was over-hasty in the preparation and working of the canvas. Stranger still, after a lifetime of experimentation, are the thin washes of paint found in works of the neo-metaphysical period from 1965 to 1978. De Chirico’s research led him finally to simplicity.
From Grove Art Online