giorgio morandi

can't do food every day, so, as an alternative i would like to present one of my  favorite still life painters, giorgio morandi. to introduce his work, here is one of his earlier compositions, one of the many exceptional still life paintings he completed in his life.


and what a life. born in bologna in 1890, his city virtually all of his life, a few trips to venice and rome excepting. some summers in the country house at grizzana. he lived with his mother and three sisters, upstairs at via fondazza 36, where he worked and slept in a single room, a quiet back room facing a courtyard.


a large window provided all the light by which he created most of his elegant, if prosaic minimalist paintings. morandi is quoted as having studied monet and c√©zanne and, viewing his still lifes, it is easy to see why. not so easy to understand is the influence of the italian renaissance. the art of painters like giotto, paolo uccello, masaccio, and piero della francesca, which he seemed to admire greatly.


morandi's still lifes seem vaguely alike throughout the course of some fifty years, painting after painting, almost mundane, were it not for the tonalities,  counterpoint and harmonically interdependent, of simple subjects, endlessly rendering rather common objects, those bottles, cruets, pitchers, vases, boxes and jugs. backgrounds are tables or simply colors, often muted, softly subdued, complimenting or balancing, the tonal range of those objects.



what extraordinary compositions, again and again,  often seen head-on, in a child's view of objects placed eye level on a sideboard as in a one point perspective. monotonously impassive, devoid of sensuality, of voluptuousness, serene, contemplative and of a spectrum, pale, bleak, dusty, certainly of similar palettes. in ways pure, chaste, innocent as it were, of a peaceful, yet threatened serenity, reflective of the small world he chose to live in. it is as though he withdrew early, painting colors from the shadows of his room.



yet morandi's work has the delight of an enchanted dream, the arrangement in his compositions is done with such subtlety, that only a dream could convey their complete, yet ambiguous harmony. no painter since nor before, worked his motifs, his subjects with quite the same intensity and style. though morandi's brush varies, even at its coarsest, as in the 1964 painting above, such strokes seem in perfect harmony with their subject. all his paintings are small, most within twenty by thirty, and might easily be brushed past, if not for their quiet intensity, invoking in this viewer a reflective reaction, a tactile and sensuously palpable response.

herbert list photographed morandi in 1953