Giorgio Morandi (1890-1964)
The suggestion to look at the work of Giorgio Morandi was a very useful one for me as I have been struggling with composition in my still lives and Giorgio Morandi was a master of the still life who worked obsessively on his compositions.
I found many examples of his work on the Bridgeman education website (not included here for reasons of copyright).
A selection of his works are also available to view here on the Wikipaintings website. Scrolling through these works the dominant features are still lives painted in muted colours such that there is harmony in the paintings. Nothing jars or stands out as overly dominant. The image they conjure up is of the painter in calm and contemplative work. The same objects appear over and over again in Morandi's work but the compositions change subtly and each work is interesting. I particularly like the paintings where he has made very static compositions with all the objects grouped together in a rectangle and all of similar height. I also like his subtle approach to the fluted texture of some of his vases - this appears many times as a repeated motif.
As well as the painted still lives there are also etched still lives. In these the solidity of the objects is built up from a multitude of fine hatching lines giving tone and form at the same time. It looks as though the artist has built the forms entirely from hatching without first using any line drawing to outline the basic structure. I had a go in my sketchbook at drawing a simple coke can using hatching alone without any pre-drawing. It is incredibly difficult even with a graphite pencil. Achieving this on an etching plate must have required pinpoint accuracy and infinite patience. The images are quite startling in their mastery. The etchings also have stronger tonal contrasts than the paintings.
Morandi did not only paint still lives- there are landscapes and also a metaphysical still life included in this selection. However the still lives were his main preoccupation.
Giorgio Morandi lived almost his whole life in Bologna. He studied at the Accademia di Belle Arti of Bologna from the age of 17. (He later also taught etching at the same academy)
His early influences were the impressionist painters. In particular the influence of Cezanne can be seen in his early landscapes. He also had brief periods in which he was influenced by the Italian Futurists and subsequently Metaphysical painting (influenced by de Chirico and Corra').
Although he was not an outgoing artist he was not a recluse. He did travel (although mainly within Italy) and kept up with developments on the art and political scene by reading books, magazines and socialising with other artists. He travelled to Florence and picked up influences from the likes of Giotto, Ucello and Caravaggio. He was, however selective and preferred to reserve as much of his time and energy as possible for his work. Throughout his life he lived and worked in his childhood home in Bologna in a small and dusty studio. He had a small collection of objects and obsessively repeated the same motifs over and over again as if trying to capture some elusive quality of this small group of objects. He didn't like to be flashy or grandiose and it is said by some that he cultivated the patina of dust that formed on his still life subjects.
'Casa Morandi' is open to the public as part of the Morandi museum in Bologna. Scrolling through the photo gallery of his home and studio I am struck by how ordinary the objects he painted look in a photograph compared to how beautifully they were rendered on the paintings. You can also see his avoidance of 'bling' extended as far as whitewashing or roughly painting over the surface of bottles to make them matte and obliterate reflective surfaces.
Morandi, Giorgio: Biography. Piero Pacini . Grove Art Online via Oxford Art Online
Giorgio Morandi: All That Life Contains; Contained. Holland Cotter. New York Times Art Review, Sept 18 2008
Notes on Copyright:
I have been asked by the OCA to remove all images sourced from Bridgeman Education from my Blog. I want to keep the blog public as I appreciate looking at other students' blogs so don't want to make mine password protected thereby preventing others from using it. This means that my research points don't look so pretty on first inspection. Please be patient and follow the links as there are plenty of images to look at.