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Artists Giorgio Morandi
Giorgio Morandi Photo

Giorgio Morandi

Italian Painter and Printmaker

Movements and Styles: Cubism, Futurism, Metaphysical Art, Realism

Born: July 20, 1890 - Bologna, Italy

Died: June 18, 1964 - Bologna, Italy

Giorgio Morandi Timeline

Quotes

"I believe nothing is more abstract than reality."
Giorgio Morandi
"Before I die I should like to complete two pictures. The important thing is to touch the core, the essense of things."
Giorgio Morandi
"There is little or nothing new in the world. What matters is the new and different position in which an artist finds himself seeing and considering the things of so-called nature and the works that preceded and interested him."
Giorgio Morandi
"Even in as simple a subject, a great painter can achieve a majesty of vision and an intensity of feeling to which we immediately respond."
Giorgio Morandi
"After all, even a still life is architecture."
Giorgio Morandi
"What has value in painting is an individual way of seeing things: nothing else counts."
Giorgio Morandi
"If I had been born twenty years later, I would find myself in the same state as today's painters. Something has ended; I wouldn't want to be young today."
Giorgio Morandi
"Though aware of just how hard it will be to attain the distant goal I have glimpsed, I am sustained by the certainty that the path I am following is the right one. I repudiate nothing in my past.. Conscience has always guided me in my work and I am comforted by the knowledge that in all my endeavors, even in the moments of greatest uncertainty, my personality has always managed to come through"
Giorgio Morandi
"[I am a] believer in Art for Art's sake rather than in Art for the sake of religion, of social justice or national glory. Nothing is more alien to me than an art which sets out to serve other purposes than those implied in the work of Art in itself."
Giorgio Morandi
"All this calm, all this peace, this somber equilibrium that underlies the works of Giorgio Morandi and found in Max Ernst and Giorgio de Chirico masks the uneasiness that something threatening is about to explode."
Salvador Dali
"[Morandi's] pictures have a dreamlike quality," Steiner replies. "The objects seem to be bathed in the light of memory, yet they're painted with such solidity and real feeling that you can almost touch them - one might say that art has left nothing to chance. There is a calm that weighs on me. It is a peace that makes me afraid... Perhaps because I distrust it above everything. I feel that its only an appearance, that it hides a danger.. They say that the world of the future will be wonderful. But what does that mean? It needs only the gesture of a madman to destroy everything."
Federico Fellini - La Dolce Vita
"Viewed in a series, Morandi's paintings affirm an order that is as new, variable, and convincing as Piet Mondrian's his closest modern equivalent in spirit although not in style. In figurative terms, rather than in the abstract terms of Mondrian, Morandi devoted himself to studying the slight but crucial shifting of weight in forms that counterbalance each other."
Art Historian J.T.Soby

"One can travel this world and see nothing. To achieve understanding it is necessary not to see many things, but to look hard at what you do see."

Giorgio Morandi Signature

Synopsis

Holed up in a small room in the center of Italy, far from the avant-garde of his day, Giorgio Morandi painstakingly worked to unlock the puzzles of art, the questions of modern painting, looking for the structure and order that underlies the process of representation itself. With a sparse selection of household objects and familiar landscapes, painted in muted tones and warm light, Giorgio Morandi bridged the grand legacy of Italian art and 20th-century modernism. With carefully crafted tonal relationships and a sense of palpable light and space, his paintings extended a tradition of representational painting while creating a minimalist aesthetic that remained relevant in the face of abstraction. Ultimately, Morandi's poetic style did not escape the attention of his contemporaries and established a legacy for generations of representational painters.

Key Ideas

Morandi grounded his work in familiar and universal forms and yet suggested an autobiographical quality in his careful paint handling and attention to an identifiable Italian quality of light. Although he painted generic household objects, critics noted how his representation of these objects conveyed a sense of Morandi's personality, monastic habits, and Bolognese environment. His tightly unified body of work would be influential for its close study of unremarkable elements of daily life, imbuing them with implications of deeper significance by emphasizing their painterly beauty and simplicity.
Engaged with his own pictorial experiments, Morandi was seemingly unaffected by contemporary art movements when the avant-garde was overwhelmingly interested in abstract painting. Yet, his concerns were similar to experiments by his contemporaries; for example he approached color, line, light, space, and brushstroke, as problems to be solved through careful study and nuanced adjustments. His realism was not simple reproduction of a subject; comparing Morandi's paintings with photographs of the objects he depicted, his manipulations of volume, shape and space become clear. As a contemporary critic, J.T. Soby exclaimed, "[Morandi separates] volumes and color and then interlock[s] them again in an alchemy he alone understood." Moreover, Morandi imbued these elements with emanating light that is far less evident in reproductions of his work, but that is palpable in the original paintings.
With his attention to technique and painstaking precision, Morandi extended the legacy of Italian painting into the 20th century, but gave it new relevance with his minimalist style and non-narrative focus. The sparse palette, clean lines, and careful brushstroke of Morandi's still lifes are unmistakably modern and his attention to technique and the physicality of the painted surface connected later painters with the grand traditions of the still life and landscape genres.

Biography

Giorgio Morandi Photo

Childhood and Education

Giorgio Morandi was the eldest of five children, born into a middle-class family in Bologna, Italy. His only brother died in childhood. Morandi developed an interest in art from an early age, displeasing his father who wanted his son to join him in his export business; Morandi attempted this unsuccessfully in 1906 before enrolling at the Bologna Academy of Fine Arts in 1907. His pursuit of art as a career is owed in part to his failure at his father's company, his resistance to changing his focus on art despite his father's best efforts, and because of his mother's belief that her son should follow his dreams.

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Giorgio Morandi Biography Continues

Important Art by Giorgio Morandi

The below artworks are the most important by Giorgio Morandi - that both overview the major creative periods, and highlight the greatest achievements by the artist.

Natura morta (Still Life) (1914)
Artwork Images

Natura morta (Still Life) (1914)

Artwork description & Analysis: One of Giorgio Morandi's earliest paintings, Natura morta (Still Life) of 1914, features a wooden table on which stands an assortment of monochromatic objects of everyday life. Although rendered in an abstract fashion, the viewer is still able to identify an upright book with its binding facing outward, which is positioned in front of a clear bottle, a vase, and a pitcher. In the space behind the table appears an abstracted view of a room, suggesting part of a wall, a window, and another table. While the objects are all inert, they are painted to suggest instability and movement, with a diagonal thrust that propels them towards the viewer.

In his early years, Morandi experimented with emerging styles; this painting shows the influences of both Futurism and Cubism. Morandi's still life suggests Futurism in the way each object is rendered to suggest movement towards the foreground. Elements of Cubism are visible in the use of bold outlines that emphasize basic geometric shapes and their arrangement into a compressed plane, along with the thick application of muted tones of paint. Although this dynamism would soon be replaced with a calm stability, this early work establishes basic formal elements that will appear throughout Morandi's later work.

Oil on canvas - Collection of Augusto and Francesca Giovanardi

Natura morta (Still Life) (1916)
Artwork Images

Natura morta (Still Life) (1916)

Artwork description & Analysis: Giorgio Morandi's painting Natura morta (Still Life) features an arrangement that includes two brown bottles, a gray pitcher and coffee pot, and a two-toned gray box. The works are rendered simply and lack detail. They sit on a beige tabletop, the edge of which is slightly below the center of the canvas, dividing the composition into three bands. The top and bottom band are a chocolate brown, highlighting the tabletop which depicted in lighter tan to better define the objects and the shadows cast.

Although this subject is unremarkable in itself, Morandi believed it carried important potential, describing how "even in as simple a subject, a great painter can achieve a majesty of vision and an intensity of feeling to which we immediately respond." This would push Morandi to focus on the development of formal qualities of line, color and composition. Although unassuming, this work must have been a particular importance to Morandi, as it was displayed for many years on the wall of his studio; he also selected this painting to show at the 1948 Venice Biennale. Well received at that exhibition, it helped to earn him the event's painting prize and was later purchased by the Museum of Modern Art in New York.

Oil on canvas - The Museum of Modern Art, New York, New York

Natura morta (Still Life) (1918)
Artwork Images

Natura morta (Still Life) (1918)

Artwork description & Analysis: Morandi's Natura morta (Still Life) (1918) departs from his earlier realism with three unrecognizable objects suspended in a box with a clear front. A key painting in his oeuvre, this is one of a small number of works in which he drew inspiration from the Metaphysical school of painting and most particularly shows the influence of the leading artists of this style, Giorgio de Chirico and Carlo Carra.

While the three objects resemble a ball, a skittle pin, and a mitered frame edge, the way in which they are arranged is unrealistic, producing a surreal, slightly disturbing effect. They float in the enclosed space of a box that also defies perspectival space. Yet, even when working within this irrational style, Morandi depicts the objects in a tightly structured arrangement. The metaphysical elements are secondary to the composition of the objects, the energy of the space between them, and how they reflect the light; these elements are characteristic of Morandi's broader body of work and outlast his experimentation at this phase of his career. Art historians have argued that it was during this phase of Metaphysical painting that Morandi first experimented with giving deeper meanings to common objects.

Later Morandi would distance himself from any participation in this movement stating, "My own paintings of that period remain pure still life compositions and never suggest any metaphysical, surrealist, psychological, or literary considerations at all."

Oil on canvas - Collection of Galleria Nazionale d'Arte Moderna e Contemporanea, Rome, Italy

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Influences and Connections

Influences on Artist
Artists, Friends, Movements
Influenced by Artist
Artists, Friends, Movements
Giorgio Morandi
Interactive chart with Giorgio Morandi's main influences, and the people and ideas that the artist influenced in turn.
View Influences Chart

Artists

GiottoGiotto
Georges SeuratGeorges Seurat
Paul CézannePaul Cézanne
Carlo CarràCarlo Carrà
Giorgio de ChiricoGiorgio de Chirico

Personal Contacts

Giacomo LeopardiGiacomo Leopardi
Luigi MagnaniLuigi Magnani
Carlo Ludovico RagghiantiCarlo Ludovico Ragghianti

Movements

CubismCubism
FuturismFuturism
ImpressionismImpressionism
Metaphysical ArtMetaphysical Art
PurismPurism

Influences on Artist
Giorgio Morandi
Giorgio Morandi
Years Worked: 1913 - 1964
Influenced by Artist

Artists

Carlo CarràCarlo Carrà
Giorgio de ChiricoGiorgio de Chirico
Joseph CornellJoseph Cornell

Personal Contacts

Giacomo LeopardiGiacomo Leopardi
Luigi MagnaniLuigi Magnani
Carlo Ludovico RagghiantiCarlo Ludovico Ragghianti

Movements

FuturismFuturism
Pop ArtPop Art
MinimalismMinimalism

Useful Resources on Giorgio Morandi

Videos

Books

Websites

Articles

More

The books and articles below constitute a bibliography of the sources used in the writing of this page. These also suggest some accessible resources for further research, especially ones that can be found and purchased via the internet.

biography

Giorgio Morandi (Twentieth-Century Masters Series) Recomended resource

By Karen Wilkin

Giorgio Morandi: Works, Writings, Interviews

By Karen Wilkin

artworks

Brigitte March Niedermair: Transition Giorgio Morandi

By Gianfranco Maraniello

Giorgio Morandi

By Ernst-G. Guse and Franz A. Morat

More Interesting Books about Giorgio Morandi
All That Life Contains, Contained Recomended resource

By Holland Cotter
The New York Times
September 18, 2008

Giorgio Morandi Creates a Universe on a Tabletop Recomended resource

By Roberta Smith
The New York Times
November 19, 2015

Tables for One - Giorgio Morandi's still-lifes Recomended resource

By Peter Schjeldahl
The New Yorker
September 22, 2008

The Metaphysician of Bologna: John Berger on Giorgio Morandi, in 1955

ARTnews
November 6, 2015

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Content compiled and written by The Art Story Contributors

Edited and revised, with Synopsis and Key Ideas added by Sarah Archino

" Artist Overview and Analysis". [Internet]. . TheArtStory.org
Content compiled and written by The Art Story Contributors
Edited and revised, with Synopsis and Key Ideas added by Sarah Archino
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