September 27, 2009

Giorgio Morandi

Still Life, 1940, 16 x19 inches

Still Life, 1949, 14 x 18 inches

Still Life, 1954, 10 x 28 inches

Still Life, 1961, 10 x 12 inches

Still Life, 1964, 10 x 12 inches

2 Still Life watercolors, 1962, 6 x 8 inches

At the risk of being ridiculously obvious regarding the issue of our differing response to painting and to objects (touched on in the post "American Art Pottery"), I thought I'd do a post on the work of Giorgio Morandi, a painter of objects, mundane things––bottles, jars, jugs, cans––that appeared in his work over and over again through the years. I love Morandi's work every bit as much, or more being that I'm a painter, as the pottery I've written about. The paintings above were photographed from the catalogue of the great Morandi exhibition of last fall at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Morandi: 1890-1964 (which I see is out of print; I'm so glad I bought a copy).

Although Morandi painted these objects in his studio, looking at them, rearranging them, studying them, you can see that his aim was not just to reproduce what he saw. Like Giacometti in his paintings, I feel that he was trying to comprehend what it meant to look; what space was and how it related to the objects occupying it; how did the artist's sensibility affect his vision, his touch. There is a philosophical search at the heart of Morandi's paintings, that I believe is at a different level of complexity from that of a maker of objects. Paintings and pots both convey feeling, and sensual pleasure. When I look at a piece of pottery in a museum, my senses of sight and touch are engaged, while it is mainly the eye into mind engaged in looking at painting.

Looking at the selection of paintings above, done over his lifetime, we can see how varied Morandi's simple paintings are: they explore different qualities of light, of composition, of format. The bottles and jugs become characters on a stage, huddling together or barely touching. The wavering outlines of forms create an uncertainty: can we really know things? Is space as actual as object? seems to be a question that the later work asks, especially the watercolors. What makes Morandi's work so important is that his paintings also have great emotion, a touching humility, a longing for beauty.


  1. A touching humility...lpvely choice of words. Space is an object when given weight. Love the narrow horizontal one...a family.

  2. Oh Morandi is one of my favorites.

    I notice you didnt mention Fra Filippo Lippi with Fra Angelico.

    Finally, I thought you would like Anni Albers textiles. I love the triangles.

    Thank you for all your great photos and Organized coverage of exhibits (which I have seen)!!! The mourners exhibit and so many others.

  3. I'm glad that I bought that catalogue too! I love Morandi.

  4. I am not a painter, I am a cook. When I make a ragù alla bolognese, I work with a basic set of ingredients, but over a lifetime I have never made exactly the same ragù twice. No paintings I know touch me more deeply than do Morandi's still lives (his engravings are equally profound), and I think that before him Italy produced no painter of equivalent stature until you reach Caravaggio. Marcella Hazan

  5. Marcella Hazan, I love the way you bring the method of sensitive cooking into the realm of art; not only do you not make the same ragu, but no two people can make the same dish with the same ingredients just as two artists in front of the same motif make two quite different paintings.
    Though I must say I love the Italian primitives most of all Italian painters previous to Morandi.

  6. Just found this blog on Morandi. Maybe this is obvious, but I never realized how much Guston's work was influenced by Morandi. (Now I have looked it up and it seems Guston was indeed inspired by Morandi!)