Sunday, June 22, 2014

Etchings by Giorgio Morandi - a Masterful, Measured Study

The Italian artist, Giorgio Morandi, whose still life images are noted for their carefully measured studies in subtlety and simplicity, also developed quite a reputation in the printmaking medium. Quite an understatement when you see his prints, my inked up comrades. These prints are beautifully crafted, seamless in their calculations and a tour de force how abstraction can define that which is observed. I do like these prints very much and in the past have challenged my students to try to study/master Morandi’s style. There is something fragile and vulnerable about the work, and yet his lines gather together, one by one, to form these delicate bottles and vases. His scale creates a certain intimacy as well, and we as viewers feel a preciousness toward the subject, as Morandi surely did.

Morandi was born in Bologna in 1890. From 1907 to 1913 he studied at the Accademia di Belle Arti di Bologna. After the death of his father in 1909, the family moved to via Fondazza n. 36, and Morandi became the head of the family.

Morandi taught himself printmaking by studying books on Rembrandt. Morandi was deeply influenced by the works of Cézanne, Derain, and Picasso. However, he was also influenced by the Italian artists Giotto, Masaccio, Piero Della Francesca, and Uccello. He briefly studied the Futurist style in 1914 but eventually opted for a more timeless, meditative style. From 1914 to1929, Morandi was appointed instructor of drawing for elementary schools in Bologna. From 1930 to 1956, Morandi was a professor of etching at Accademia di Belle Arti.

In 1915, he joined the army but suffered a breakdown and was discharged. During WWI, Morandi's still lifes became more reduced in their compositional elements and purer in form, revealing an admiration for Cézanne’s compositions. In 1918–19 he worked with Bacchelli and Giuseppe Raimondi (1898–1976) on the Bologna magazine La raccolta.

He went through a Metaphysical painting phase from 1918 to 1922. This was his last major stylistic shift; then, he focused for the rest of his career on subtleties of hue, tone, and objects arranged in a unifying atmospheric haze. He was sympathetic to the Fascist party in the 1920s, although his friendships with anti-Fascist figures led authorities to arrest him briefly in 1943.

On a personal side, Morandi was seen as being rather quiet, yet having a charming personality. He lived in Bologna with his three sisters, Anna, Dina and Maria Teresa, until his death in 1964, and was buried in the family’s tomb at Bologna’s Certosa cemetery.

Throughout his career, Morandi concentrated almost exclusively on still lifes and landscapes, except for a few self-portraits. He was perceived to have evolved a style congenial to modernist abstraction. Through his simple and repetitive motifs and economical use of color, value and surface, Morandi became an important forerunner of Minimalism.

He created 133 etchings, which is a significant body of work in its own right. He explained: "What interests me most is expressing what’s in nature, in the visible world, that is". He did not ally himself with any group but continued to pursue his own idea of natural truth. Often, his objects conveyed a sense of timelessness.

In 1993, the Museo Morandi opened due to the generosity of the Italian president Marilena Pasquali, the Municipality of Bologna and his sister, Maria Teresa Morandi, of his works and his atelier, which were owned by the family. The museum includes a recreation of his studio.

1921 - exhibited with de Chirico and Carrà in Berlin and Florence
1926 & 1929 - Novecento italiano exhibitions
1929 - Morandi illustrated the work Il sole a picco by Vincenzo Cardarelli
1948 - first prize in painting, Venice Biennale
1957 - grand prize in São Paulo's Biennial
2008 - the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York
2013 - the Centre for Fine Arts in Brussels, Belgium

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