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Details & Cataloguing

20th Century Italian Art

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London

Giorgio Morandi
1890 - 1964
NATURA MORTA
signed
oil on canvas
35 by 40cm.
13 3/4 by 15 3/4 in.
Executed in 1957.
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Provenance

Emilio Jesi, Milan
Galleria Annunciata, Milan
Tullio Mutti, Milan
Galleria Gian Ferrari, Milan
Private Collection (acquired from the above circa 1996; sale: Christie's, London, 15th October 2007, lot 210)
Purchased at the above sale by the present owner

Exhibited

Milan, Palazzo Reale, Civiche Raccolte d'Arte, Morandi e Milano, 1990-91, p. 166, no. 78, illustrated in the catalogue
Paris, Fondation Dina Vierny - Musée Maillol, Giorgio Morandi - Exposition Rétrospective, 1996-97, illustrated in the catalogue
São Paulo, União Latina, Museu de Arte, Morandi, 1997, illustrated in the catalogue
Lisbon, Fundação Arpad Szenes - Vieira da Silva, Morandi, 2002-03, illustrated in the catalogue

Literature

Lamberto Vitali, Morandi. Catalogo generale, Volume secondo 1948-1964, Milan, 1977, no. 1051, illustrated n.p.

Catalogue Note

Natura morta is an exceptional example of Morandi’s enigmatic still-lifes and highly sophisticated aesthetic. In the present work the artist’s cast of unassuming pots and bottles are transfigured by his exquisitely refined palette. The three tiered background emphasises Morandi’s mastery of subtle colouration; the sun-struck cream-white progresses to slightly darker hues to create perspective and governs the meditative tone. Natura morta has a striking three-dimensionality achieved through deft brushwork that depicts the shadows cast from one artefact to another. The objects provide a counterpoint of form and colour, led by the arresting pink and lichen greens. These bolder interjections of bright colour amidst the near-monochromatic palette Morandi cultivated throughout his career are the greatest achievement in his mature works. Leone Minassian wrote in 1959: ‘His paintings are nearly always dominated by a particular colour, around which precious and sometimes extraordinarily daring shades are developed with surprising harmony. […] these are colours of feeling’ (quoted in Morandi (exhibition catalogue), The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 2008, p. 312).

These elegant arrangements of simple pottery inhabit liminal spaces. Their existence within the picture plane is subject to Morandi’s artistic concerns of spatial harmony which he used to represent his incisive perception of reality. The outwardly repetitious nature of his still-lifes served to provide a theoretical arena within which every facet of his subject could be explored. In the same year as he completed the present work Morandi defined his art saying: ‘The feelings and images aroused by the visible world are very difficult to express or are inexpressible with words because they are determined by forms, colours, space and light’ (quoted in ibid., p. 295).

Morandi’s artistic process was meticulous. Every aspect of his art was personally carried out, from stretching and priming canvases to the making of paints. The pots, bowls and bottles in his studio were reshaped or irregularly reconstructed and then were allowed to accrue a film of dust to obscure the crisp markings of mass manufacture, and in so doing, increase their underlying organic qualities when painted. The nuanced colour tones for which his paintings are best known are due to the attention he paid to their composition. In 1919 Morandi offered his fellow painter Carlo Carrà one of ‘the last pieces of a beautiful red earth (terra rossa) dug up, at one time, in the environs of Assisi and that for a long time has been unobtainable. Mixed with white it gives a beautiful pink such as one sees in the ancient frescos’ (quoted in Giorgio Morandi (exhibition catalogue), Tate Modern, London, 2001, p. 96).

Morandi’s art sought to bridge the concerns of painterly expression and his contemporaries’ conceptual conceits. Discussing the apparent contradiction in the artist’s work Matthew Gale writes: ‘Morandi appears to be a realist, but his reality is a construct, aware of and reflective upon the artifice of painting. His objects appear ordinary, but were modified, adapted, even made, by the artist himself. His settings suggest domesticity, but were carefully conceived and lit arenas. Even his processes reflect this distance from reality or, perhaps, the distance from the ‘objective’. Morandi’s work – as befits a believer in art for art’s sake – is highly subjective. It is the construct of a constructed vision deliberately screened through processes that filter out the superficial and interpose an assertion of personality. By working in series, little observations could be allowed their magnitude’ (M. Gale, ibid., p. 100).

20th Century Italian Art

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London