Private Collection, Switzerland
Acquired from the above by the present owner circa 2005
Vitale Bloch in Giorgio Morandi: Paintings and Prints (exhibition catalogue), Arts Council of Great Britain, London, 1954
Natura morta, dating from 1954, is an exquisite example of Morandi’s mastery of the still-life subject and of the painterly virtuosity with which he combined simple forms and a subtle palette into delicate and perfectly balanced compositions. The theme of the still-life, which remained central to Morandi’s art throughout his career, was always guided by his concern to bring together space, light, colour and form, and his great achievement was to reconcile this traditional genre with the abstract aesthetic of his own time. Focusing his artistic efforts on a limited range of subjects, he was able to distil these pictorial concerns to their purest expression.
Like others of his generation, Morandi looked at Italian art of early Renaissance with fresh eyes, conscious of the legacy of tradition as well as of the regional and rustic aspects of Italian cultural heritage. Additionally, a key influence was that of Cézanne, whose intense focus on reality and individual way of seeing encouraged Morandi's discovery of the simple geometric solidity of everyday objects. This was to become his subject, although his style moved through several very distinct phases. The objects, invariably household items such as bottles, jars, pitchers and bowls, were laid out with the calculated precision of a classical composition, yet the way in which they are painted establishes their presence as self-contained forms in space.
The present painting goes far beyond the objective recording of reality. Inanimate objects become enigmatic, like metaphysical portents of unexpected feelings or events. In an article written in 1922, the painter Giorgio de Chirico referred explicitly to this poetic aspect of Morandi’s still-lifes: ‘These objects are dead for us because they are immobile. But he looks at them with belief. He finds comfort in their inner structure – their eternal aspect. In this way he has contributed to the lyricism of the last important movement in European art: the metaphysics of the common object. However much we may be aware that appearances deceive, we often look at familiar things with the eyes of one who sees and does not know’ (G. de Chirico quoted in Giorgio Morandi (exhibition catalogue), Arts Council of Great Britain, London, 1970, p. 6).
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