Italian artist Giorgio Morandi is celebrated for his dreamlike still life and landscape paintings made in an impressionist style. In 1948 he was awarded first prize for painting at Venice Biennale and in 1957 he won the grand prize in São Paulo's Biennial.Read More
Giorgio Morandi was born in Bologna, Italy and was the eldest of five children. After trying to pursue a career in export business at the suggestion of his father, Morandi instead went on to study at the Bologna Academy of Fine Arts in 1907.
During his studies, Morandi was influenced by the work of the Futurists and Cubists and studied the work of Paul Cézanne and Georges Seurrat.
Morandi was forced to pause his budding career in the arts when he was drafted into the military during World War I. After being discharged due to his mental health, he developed his simple, subdued, modernist style, quickly receiving international recognition for his painting.
Morandi lived a quiet lifestyle in a shared apartment with his mother and three unwed sisters. Layers of dust often collected on the bottles and objects depicted in his paintings, giving rise to the signature Morandi colour palette. American art historian John Rewald noted on a visit to Morandi's studio that 'on the surfaces of the shelves or tables, as well as on the flat tops of boxes, cans or similar receptacles, there was a thick layer of dust. It was a dense, grey, velvety dust, like a soft coat of felt, its colour and texture seemingly providing the unifying element for these tall boxes and deep bowls, old pitchers and coffee pots, quaint vases and tin boxes.'
Although often described as quiet and polite in both his private and public life Morandi was highly engaged with politics and was briefly arrested in 1943 under suspicion of participating in resistance movements against the Italian fascist government. From 1930 to 1956, Morandi was a professor of etching at Accademia di Belle Arti. He passed away in 1964.
Between 1916–1922, Morandi experimented with the Italian movement Pittura Metafisica (Metaphysical Painting) led by Italian artists Giorgio de Chirico and Carlo Carrà. The paintings made in this style often followed aesthetics of Surrealism coupled with sharp contrasts of light and dark imbibing a threatening and mysterious aura to the work.
Morandi's painting, Metaphysical Still Life (1918) is a depiction of a bottle and several other rounded objects in a muted tan colour palette. The strokes Morandi employs in this work are definitive and certain, each edge and shadow achieving an almost graphic quality.
Morandi developed his signature style following his experimentation with Metaphysical Painting. His work after that period contained a hazy and dreamlike quality, with the edges of his bottles, vases, and buildings blurred and softened.
The colour palette of Morandi's paintings was also typically subdued and muted, employing painterly strokes of pale browns, blues, reds, and yellows. The subjects of Morandi's still lifes were often everyday objects found in kitchens such as jars, ceramic bowls, vases, and glasses. His oeuvre often contained the same domestic objects in each painting, subtly rearranged and repositioned. In comparison to the definitive strokes in his previous work, these paintings, instead, seem only to hint at forms rather than explicitly demarcating them.
The same can be said for Morandi's landscapes. Much of his scene painting seems to give viewers only traces of discernible, recognisable shapes, appearing as abstracted views akin to the work of the impressionists. In a 1942 landscape, he evokes the shapes of trees in the distance through short brushstrokes littered across the canvas.
Apart from oil on canvas, Morandi has also created prints of his still lifes with etching techniques, creating more contrasted, yet still fuzzy images of the objects in his studio.
Giorgio Morandi's works have been widely celebrated with major retrospective exhibitions travelling across the world. His work has been exhibited at the Gemeentemuseum Den Haag, The Hague; Hermitage Museum, Saint Petersburg; San Francisco Museum of Art; and National Museum of Modern Art, Kyoto. His work has been collected by prestigious institutions such as the Musée d'Orsay, Paris; Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, Madrid; The Museum of Modern Art, New York; and Tate, London.
Arianna Mercado | Ocula | 2022