• gerard van weyenbergh

Giorgio Morandi Extraordinaire

He never left Bologna, where he lived and worked all his life in the family apartment. Solitary, on the fringes of any movement, Giorgio Morandi concentrated on the same subjects: still lifes of common objects, landscapes seen from his window. An engraver also, he expressed his virtuosity in works of intimate simplicity, currently on display at the Musée de Grenoble thanks to the large collection of musicologist Luigi Magnani.

In short

Painter of silence, Giorgio Morandi (1890–1964) belongs to the current of "magical realism". This expression, which appeared in the 1920s, designates painters halfway between realism and surrealism. Morandi is a unique artist because he has dealt with only two themes throughout his career: still life and landscape. His deliberately minimalist palette reinforces the image of an austere and rare painter. Morandi was not looking for the light but his recognition was exponential. Prestigious institutions (the Metropolitan Museum in New York, the Tate Modern in London, the National Museum of Modern Art in the city of Paris) have all devoted a retrospective to him over the past twenty years.

He said

"All we know is that a cup is a cup, that a tree is a tree. "

His life

Born in Bologna, Morandi is a young boy passionate about painting. Despite paternal opposition, he dreams of a career as an artist. He enrolled in the Academy of Fine Arts in his city in 1907, he was a student there for six years, but academic education did not suit him completely. The work of the Italian primitives (Giotto in particular), the Impressionists, and the Cubists interested him more! Morandi knows the history of art well, and also cultivates a love of philosophy.

When the Great War broke out, Morandi was reformed; he is not one of the combatants. The young painter crossed paths with the futurists with whom he exhibited before discovering Chirico's works in 1918. From then on, he found his way! Like him, Morandi embraces the field of so-called metaphysical painting through the theme of still life.

In his studio, the artist works in front of the model, often simple everyday objects (such as bowls and vases). Nevertheless, how he accounts for reality shows a mixture of worry and serenity. The economy of means makes his work unique. To earn a living, the painter teaches drawing and engraving, and participates in a few exhibitions organized by the Valori plastici group (which also publishes a review).

Morandi is obsessive. He painted little, but with obstinacy and concentration. His classicism is only an appearance because he cultivates an aesthetic close to abstraction. The artist seeks a form of harmony and minimalist balance, both in the composition and in the use of muted, earthy, dense colors. However, he is generous with the material, which gives a great presence to each of his works. His painting is both material and immaterial.

One cannot think of Morandi's still lifes without evoking those of Chardin and Cézanne. The artist particularly admired the latter's work. Unlike them, it denies any form of contextualization. The time it represents is that of silence. If the painter rejects all naturalism, he does not necessarily abandon the motifs from nature, sometimes placing fruits or shells in his compositions.

Morandi received the first prize at the Venice Biennale in 1948, but his importance was not truly recognized until after his death in 1964. From then on, critics praised him and he has since been considered as one of the great painters. Italian modern XX th century.

His key works

Large still life with a kerosene lamp , 1930

Morandi practiced engraving a lot. He learned this technique at the School of Fine Arts in Bologna, copying works by Rembrandt. In this composition, the artist has brought together a number of containers with elongated shapes (vases, boxes, candlestick, jugs) in a narrow space. This concentration causes a feeling of suffocation but also reveals a silent conversation between objects.

Landscape , 1942

There are a limited number of landscapes in Morandi's work. These are still views of the Bologna region. Here, not a single living being on the horizon. As in his still lifes, the painter praises a form of solitude, serenity, perhaps banality. Yet a mystery looms behind the tranquil image. What does the appearance of reality hide? What is behind the visible? The artist always develops a metaphysical reflection through his painting.

Still life , 1944

This work was painted during the Second World War, which generated a great sense of anxiety in the artist. Having had to leave his studio in Bologna to take refuge in the village of Grizzana, he painted very little during this period. The colors are clear but lackluster, the volumes simplified, the composition balanced and stable. Behind the apparent simplicity, the artist conducts a deep reflection on the poetic relationship between objects

© Beaux Arts Magazine