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    Sale 7618

    The Italian Sale

    20 October 2008, London, King Street

  • Lot 103

    Giorgio Morandi (1890-1964)

    Natura morta

    Price Realised  

    Estimate

    Giorgio Morandi (1890-1964)
    Natura morta
    signed 'Morandi' (lower left)
    oil on canvas
    11 5/8 x 14 3/8in. (30.3 x 36.4cm.)
    Painted circa 1948


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    Giorgio Morandi's reclusive life has become the stuff of artistic legend. Tucked away in his studio in the apartment in Bologna's via Fondazza that he shared with his sisters and, until her death, his mother, Morandi would move the bottles, vases, balls and boxes that were the recurring characters in his paintings, seeking some harmonious arrangement that appealed to his profound and subtle aesthetic sensibilities, and then capturing the result. He is usually presented as a form of hermit, contemplating scenes such as that in Natura morta, painted circa 1948, in an almost religious, monk-like manner. While none of this is inaccurate, there was more to Morandi than met the eye. He was a teacher of etching at the Accademia di Belle Arti in Bologna for a long time and was a frequent correspondent with a wide circle of friends; while he travelled abroad only a couple of times to Switzerland during his life, he nonetheless visited many places and exhibitions in his native Italy and especially developed a love and respect for Florence and the artists of the Renaissance in Tuscany. Natura morta is evidence of the more social side of Morandi, as it was a gift from him to Giacomo Manzù, the celebrated Italian figurative sculptor with whom he would share an exhibition in Winterthur in 1956-- one of the rare occasions that he did cross the Italian border.

    This insight into the friendship and mutual esteem between these artists is all the more fascinating because they were both concerned with using figurative means to convey an almost abstract subject. Morandi's still life paintings, like Manzù's sculptures of cardinals, are not concerned merely with the subject matter depicted. Instead, they provide an insight into deeper, more hidden dimensions; in the case of Manzù, this involved a combination of monumentality and spirituality. Morandi's concerns were with a more discreet spiritual, contemplative content. As he explained, 'I am essentially a painter of the kind of still life composition that communicates a sense of tranquillity and privacy, moods which I have always valued above all else' (Giorgio Morandi, quoted in L. Klepac, Giorgio Morandi: the dimension of inner space, exh. cat., Sydney, 1997, p. 12). This atmosphere is perfectly conjured in the exquisite Natura morta, in which the scumbled light has been used, with incredibly subtle variations of tone amongst the warm organic browns and beiges that constitute so much of the picture surface, to harness a Chardin-like sense of inner harmony within the closed circuit of this corner of the artist's studio. The objects, as the focus of this tight composition, become strangely monumental and are imbued with a new significance that echoes the effect in the paintings he created when he was affiliated with the Pittura Metafisica artists Giorgio de Chirico and Carlo Carrà, decades earlier. Regarding so-called abstract art, though, Morandi pointed out:
    'I believe that nothing can be more abstract, more unreal, than what we actually see. We know that all that we can see of the objective world, as human beings, never really exists as we see and understand it. Matter exists, of course, but has no intrinsic meaning of its own, such as the meanings that we attach to it. Only we can know that a cup is a cup, that a tree is a tree' (Giorgio Morandi, quoted in E. Roditi, 'Interview with Giorgio Morandi,' pp. 143-55, K. Wilkin, Giorgio Morandi: Works, Writings and Interviews, Barcelona, 2007, p. 146).

    It is in a layer underlying this simple what-you-see-is-what-you-get attitude so ingenuously embraced by Morandi that we perceive the beauty of the world around us. Morandi has created a composition that is filled with an arcane rhythm that hints at a spiritual quality, a mystic truth. This is an abstract and philosophical message written in a hidden code, in the forms of these seemingly abandoned vessels. The stillness brings about a metaphysical atmosphere that appears to pierce the veil of understanding, to approach some revelation about the nature of the world around us. And the viewer is forced to wonder if the food which is making a rare appearance-- in this picture it is shown placed in the bowl and on the tall tazza, itself a rare element-- is real or is artificial, like the dusty silk flowers that had appeared in Morandi's Fiori. For it is through artifice as well as a hermit-like and hermetic contemplation that Morandi taps into the hidden dimensions that underpin the universe.

    Special Notice

    VAT rate of 5% is payable on hammer price and at 15% on the buyer's premium


    Provenance

    A gift from the artist to Giacomo Manzù.
    Acquired from the above by the present owner in December 1982.


    Pre-Lot Text

    THE PROPERTY OF A PRIVATE COLLECTOR


    Literature

    L. Vitali, Morandi, Catalogo generale, vol. II, Milan 1977, no. 602 (illustrated, unpaged).


    Exhibited

    Tübingen, Kunsthalle, Sesta presentazione del Progetto Morandi Europa, September-October 1989, no. 85 (illustrated). This exhibition later travelled to Düsseldorf, Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen, January-March 1990.
    Bologna, Galleria Comunale d'Arte Moderna, Giorgio Morandi 1890-1990, Mostra del Centenario, May-September 1990, no. 114 (illustrated, p. 180).
    Paris, Galerie Claude Bernard, Giorgio Morandi: peintures et aquarelles, March-May 1992, no. 21.
    Brussels, Le Botanique, Giorgio Morandi, Artiste d'Europe, June-August 1992, no. 51.
    Milan, Duomo Arte e Cultura, Giorgio Morandi: La grande stagione della natura morta, December 1993-February 1994 (illustrated, p. 26).
    Jerusalem, The Israel Museum, Natura morta Italiana: Italian Still Life Painting from Four Centuries, June-October 1994, no. 50 (illustrated, p. 115).
    Bologna, Galleria d'Arte Maggiore, Giorgio Morandi: Opere scelte, 1998 (illustrated, p. 27).
    Winterthur, Kunstmuseum, Giorgio Morandi: Gemälde, Aquarelle, Zeichnungen, Druckgraphik , April-July 2000, no. 15 (illustrated, p. 26).
    Tokyo, Seiji Togo Memorial Yasuda Kasai Museum of Art, Italian Still Life Painting, April-May 2001, no. 53 (illustrated, p. 53). This exhibition later travelled to Niigata City, Art Museum, June-July 2001; Hokkaido, Hakodate Museum of Art, July-September 2001; Toyama, Toyama Shimin Plaza Art Gallery, October 2001; Ashikaga, Museum of Art, November-December 2001; Yamagata, Museum of Art, April-May 2002.
    Francavilla al Mare (Chieti), Museo Michetti, Oltre l'oggetto. Morandi e la natura morta oggi in Italia, June-September 2007 (illustrated on the cover, and p. 23).