Giorgio Morandi (1890-1964)
PROPERTY FROM THE COLLECTION OF MAX PALEVSKY Like the protagonists of many "great American success" stories of the 20th century, Max Palevsky grew from humble beginnings into one of the foremost visionaries of his generation. Born in 1924 to Jewish parents who had recently emigrated from Eastern Europe, Palevsky was raised the youngest of three children in a gritty working-class neighborhood of Chicago. After graduating from public high school with a strong interest in science and mathematics, he enlisted as an electronics officer and meteorologist in the United States Army Air Corps during World War II, which afforded him both the opportunity to travel the world and finish his education. While in the Army, Palevsky visited the Museum of Modern Art during a stop in New York, where he saw an influential exhibition "What is Modern Architecture?", that would broaden his understanding of the relationship between art, architecture, design and science. Palevsky was profoundly moved by this exhibition. The GI Bill enabled him to earn degrees in mathematics and philosophy from the University of Chicago in 1948, later described by Palevsky as "the crucial experience of my life"1 and one that "gave me a notion of, and enthusiasm for, all that was out there in the world [and] of the limitless horizons of discovery."2 Armed with a graduate education and a strong understanding of symbolic logic, Palevsky accepted a teaching position at UCLA. In an event Palevsky described as a "happenstance," he attended a lecture at the California Institute of Technology about the future possibility of "self-correcting" computers by the prescient mathematician John von Neumann.3 Palevsky was so inspired that he promptly looked up "Computers" in a local telephone directory, quit his teaching job and joined what would become Bendix Corporation as one of the world's first computer designers. Later, Palevsky and a group of associates founded Scientific Data Systems (SDS), which introduced a variety of computers, among them a groundbreaking machine capable of processing data for both business and science. SDS was eventually sold to Xerox; the media at the time described Palevsky as a "founding genius." He retired as a director of Xerox in May 1972. In the following years, Palevsky turned his attention to his other passions: venture capitalism, politics, philanthropy and the arts. In 1970, he became a director and board chairman of Rolling Stone magazine, which he rescued from financial ruin. Palevsky also supported a number of political candidates and became a strong supporter of campaign finance reform. Palevsky spent much of his time and energy creating three remarkable houses in California: a "stark yet grand" Palm Springs retreat designed by Craig Ellwood in 1968; a Spanish-Mediterranean villa on the bluffs of Malibu, configured by architect Joe Wieser in 1972 and renovated by renowned Italian designer Ettore Sotsass in 1984; and the 1985 remodel by architectural designer Coy Howard of a 1928 Spanish-Italian style residence in Beverly Hills.4 For Palevsky, whose first art purchase in 1960 was a sexually-charged gouache entitled Junger Knabe by German artist George Grosz (Day Sale lot 213), collecting was largely autodidactic and approached with equal measures of intellect and discipline. Eventually, Palevsky amassed one of the world's foremost collections of the Arts and Crafts, solidifying relationships over the years with museum curators, most notably Leslie Greene Bowman, former curator of decorative arts at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) and now president and chief executive of Monticello, Charlottesville, VA; Wendy Kaplan, the current head of the decorative arts department at LACMA, and Robert Singer, the museum's curator of Japanese art. Between 1990-1993, Palevsky gave 74 Arts and Crafts pieces to LACMA. He supplied about a third of the 300 objects displayed in a 2004-05 LACMA exhibit, The Arts and Crafts Movement in Europe and America: 1880-1920. In 2009, the museum presented The Arts and Crafts Movement: Masterworks From the Max Palevsky and Jodie Evans Collection. Palevsky often likened the difficult relationship between Arts and Crafts and modernization to his feelings about what computers have come to symbolize in the 21st century, "Computers were originally intended to expedite work and solve serious problems, from space travel to record keeping... Unfortunately, they have also become passive entertainment devices-substitutes for interactions with the real world. Just as the Arts and Crafts movement took issue with the alienation of people from 'pleasure in labour' and the resulting loss of human creativity, I, too, oppose the depersonalization that comes from the hypnotic quality of computer games, the substitution of a Google search for genuine inquiry, the instant messaging that has replaced social discourse."5 Palevsky's regard for fine and decorative arts that share a clean, organized and geometric style have led him to acquire a variety of Modern and contemporary art and Japanese prints. Works by French Modernist Fernand Léger and American Pop artist Roy Lichtenstein hung in each of his houses, and he describes himself as one of the most prolific collectors of paintings by Richard Lindner, a German artist who idolized Léger and who was known for "boldly mechanistic, highly sexual images of women." In addition, Palevsky installed the monumental stabiles by Alexander Calder in Malibu and Palm Springs. Overall, Palevsky exercised great restraint in his collecting, preferring to use or see what he owned, and sell or donate works that did not have a proper place in one of his homes or offices. He explained, "When you buy art, as opposed to looking at it, there's a discipline. You have to really look... [at] a bunch of things to decide, 'Is this worth that much money to me?' People who collect seriously look seriously."6 When asked in recent years how he would like to be remembered, Palevsky simply answered: "Just as somebody who contributed to the community. We all have a responsibility."7 Footnotes: 1. Jennifer Leovy, "Pledge of $20 million from Max Palevsky to enhance residential life," The University of Chicago Chronicle, 13 July 2000. 2. "Palevskys donate another $5 million to University," The University of Chicago Chronicle, 14 March 1996. 3. Suzanne Muchnic, "Max Palevsky meticulously assembles a design trove to be given to LACMA," The Los Angeles Times, 14 December 2008. 4. Aaron Betsky, Three California Houses: The Homes of Max Palevsky , p. 6. 5. S. Muchnic, op. cit. 6. Susan Freudenheim, "Former computer tycoon Max Palevsky brings a steely eye to his diverse collection," The Los Angeles Times, 28 June 2001. 7. S. Muchnic, op. cit..
Giorgio Morandi (1890-1964)

Natura Morta

Giorgio Morandi (1890-1964)
Natura Morta
signed 'Morandi' (lower center)
oil on canvas
13¾ x 19¼ in. (34.9 x 48.9 cm.)
Painted circa 1953
World House Galleries, New York.
Mr. and Mrs. Harold Franklin, New York (1960).
Walter L. Randel, New York (1962).
E.V. Thaw & Co., New York.
Alice M. Kaplan, New York; sale, Christie's, New York, 7 November 1995, lot 38.
Acquired at the above sale by the late owner.
L. Vitali, Morandi, Dipinti, Catalogo generale, Milan, 1994, vol. 2, no. 1372 (illustrated).
New York, World House Galleries, Giorgio Morandi: Oils, Watercolors, Drawings, Etchings, December 1960-January 1961, no. 22.
New York, The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, Acquisition Priorities: Aspects of Postwar Painting in Europe, 1983, p. 16, no. 3B (illustrated in color).

Lot Essay

When the MoMA directors James Thrall Soby and Alfred H. Barr, Jr., were touring Italy in 1948-1949, while preparing a comprehensive exhibition of 20th century Italian art, they were told at every turn that Giorgio Morandi was then the country's greatest living painter. This claim is all the more remarkable because Morandi seemed to stand apart from the essential character of modern art in his time, with its predilection for abstraction writ large. The artist declared: "I believe that nothing can be more abstract, more unreal, than that what we actually see... I am essentially a painter of the kind of still-life composition that communicates a sense of tranquility and privacy, moods which I have always valued above all else (quoted in E. Roditi, Giorgio Morandi, Dialogues on Art, London 1960; reprinted in Giorgio Morandi 1890-1964, exh. cat., The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 2008, pp. 352 and 354).

Morandi's approach to his subject during the years following the Second World War was serial: he moved stepwise from one canvas to the next, often using the same objects, shifting them slightly, or altering the composition more dramatically with the addition of a new bottle, vase or canister. Unlike most post-war masters, he worked on modestly scaled, easel-size canvases, in which he subjected a limited assortment of favorite objects that had long been in his possession to endlessly subtle and unfolding variations. Soby recalled first seeing the artist's paintings: "One sensed the intense meditative and philosophical process through which these objects were arranged... One knew that the slightest shifts in scale, light, color, balance, and counter-balance were of the utmost importance to him" (quoted in exh. cat., op. cit., 2008, p. 230). The continuous process of painting, not the finality and significance of a single image in itself, was Morandi's primary interest, as it had also become in the sculpture and painting of Giacometti, and the late work of Picasso.

The present Natura Morta displays the profound simplicity and reduced means of Morandi's still-life arrangements during the 1950s. A cylindrical vase and a cup flank a thin-necked oil bottle. Morandi's composition is nearly symmetrical, but he deliberately counters this effect by contrasting the heights of the two cups. Two blue cylindrical containers are only slightly visible behind the three foreground objects: their darker coloration and the slight diagonal slope of their rims lend the composition all that is required to suggest the illusion of depth. In a related composition, Morandi retained the oil bottle in the center, but placed one of the blue canisters in front of it (Vitali, no. 881; circa 1953).

The painter and critic Leone Minassian wrote in 1953: "The objects are bathed in a dreamlike atmosphere but nevertheless retain an elusive presence" (quoted in ibid., p. 268). They hover, as if suspended in time, in the pale, bleaching light of the artist's bedroom studio, yet in this silent stillness, they seem pregnant with the potential of endless becoming. Kenneth Baker has observed: "The paintings yield their subtleties, and the process of seeing them yields its subtleties, only to steady, relaxed attention. Like any such meditative effort, looking at Morandi's paintings will make you feel the darting restiveness of your everyday conscious attention... Morandi's art presents us with a vision of calm, relaxed awareness. But it also confronts us with the thought that such consciousness comes about only through the discipline of unflagging concentration such as the paintings record" (Giorgio Morandi, exh. cat. The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, 1981, pp. 43 and 45).

(fig. 1) Giorgio Morandi in his studio. Photograph c Leo Lionni.
BARCODE 2724 9352

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