PROPERTY FROM THE ESTATE OF HARRIET GRIFFIN WHITELAW
The use of simple everyday objects allows the artist to focus his attention on the pictorial elements of space, light, color and form. Unlike the more austere and strictly geometrical forms of Morandi’s still lifes of the late 1940s and 1950s, the present early example, created in 1939, displays a wider range of shapes in which each object is distinctly different from the others. Tightly grouped together, they are arranged at varying distances from the viewer, partially overlapping and shadowing each other, thus forming a dynamic composition in which the eye is lead in a zig-zag line from the smallest element in the front to the largest one at the back.
The suggestion of a table on which the elements are placed, denoted by a simple diagonal line at the front and by the discontinued shadows at the back, further adds to the dynamic character of the composition. The three-dimensionality defined by the table and the shadows would disappear from Morandi’s later compositions, in which both the objects and the background would become flatter. The shadows, which would be almost completely abandoned in the 1950s, play an important role in the present work. Lit from the left-hand side, the objects cast shadows which define their contours, as well as their relationships with each other. All six elements are subtly modeled using the chiaro-scuro technique, with a soft, warm coloration to their left, and a darker tone to their right. As is the case with Morandi’s most accomplished paintings, the present work gracefully combines an earthy palette and a dynamic arrangement of objects into a composition of sophisticated beauty.
Natura morta boasts an impressive provenance, with Nelson A. Rockefeller as one of the work’s first owners. During Nelson Rockefeller’s career as vice-president, governor and a businessman, he managed to leave a lasting mark on the art world. Rockefeller served as a trustee and the president of The Museum of Modern Art, and also amassed a personal collection from around the world. Although the collection was vast—hundreds of objects—Rockefeller remained intentional and passionate about his acquisitions. He has described his attitudes when approaching artworks: “I'm interested in art that relates to life in our own day, that expresses the spirit of our time—art that isn't cloistered and set apart, art that includes the house” (quoted in Twentieth-Century Art from The Nelson Aldrich Rockefeller Collection (exhibition catalogue), The Museum of Modern Art, New York, 1969, p. 11). This fall on November 13, Sotheby's will be offering a selection of works from The Collection of Nelson and Happy Rockefeller in a dedicated sale titled Modernist Vision, which encapsulates the couple's passion for twentieth-century art.
Please call 1-800-555-5555 to order a print catalog for this sale.
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