'In the overcrowded and often uncertain world of contemporary art Morandi appears as a fixed point'
(U. Apollonio in 1949, quoted in F. Gualdoni, 'L'ultimo Morandi', pp. 24-28, in Giorgio Morandi, exh. cat., Milano, 1989, p. 24).
Executed towards the end of the Second World War, Natura Morta is a rare, remarkable still life from Giorgio Morandi's much-acclaimed war period. In 1944, the year the picture was completed, Morandi only produced ten recorded works, four of which can be grouped into the sequence to which Natura Morta belongs (Vitali, 476-479). The present work thus occupies a prominent and central place within Morandi's artistic activity during that turbulent year.
Like actors tentatively awaiting applause at the end of the performance, six elements are lined up in Natura Morta. Some of Morandi's favourite objects figure in the picture: the yellow Persian bottle, the fluted mauve bowl and the curious round, squat white container with a handle. Others reveal Morandi's subtle and elegant inventiveness: he has transformed some of these ordinary and familiar objects by decorating them by hand, elevating them from the status of humble, everyday crockery to essential elements within his poetic compositions. Standing on the left, there is a tin box on which Morandi painted a coloured square. In the background, one can see one of these tall bottles he filled with white paint, while on the right one can spot the bottom of a copper pot which - once again - the artist partially painted in white to turn it into a purely pictorial element.
In 1943 - just a year before he painted Natura Morta - Morandi was unexpectedly arrested. The OUVRA, the Fascist secret police, showed up at his door one afternoon and took him to Bologna's S. Giovanni jail, where he was locked up with two petty thieves, whom he subsequently remembered as 'extremely kind' (G. Morandi, quoted in A. Rinaldi, 'L'arresto di Giorgio Morandi', in R. Renzi, La Città di Morandi, Bologna, 1989, p. 98). Because of his friendship with Carlo Ragghianti - who had been arrested for anti-fascist resistance - Morandi had been suspected of complicity; thus, due to lack of evidence, he was released after a few weeks. The event, however, and the increasing bombardments on Bologna, convinced Morandi and his sisters to move to the countryside, to Grizzana, where, without his bottles and boxes, Morandi focused on landscapes.
Morandi was only able to return to Bologna in the autumn of 1944. Natura Morta was born in that context of renewed hope for an end to the war and from Morandi's rekindled contact with his studio and beloved objects. Compared with the works Morandi produced in the earlier years of the conflict, the present picture is striking due to its luminous colours and relaxed composition. The horizontal framing of the canvas and the aligned presence of the objects, moreover, evoke a landscape setting, echoing Morandi's achievements of the previous year and transforming this still life into an abstract panorama of shapes and colours.