Giorgio Morandi (1890-1964)
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Giorgio Morandi (1890-1964)

Natura morta

Giorgio Morandi (1890-1964)
Natura morta
signed and dated 'Morandi 1948' (on the reverse)
oil on canvas
8 1/8 x 12 7/8 in. (20.6 x 32.6 cm.)
Painted in 1948
Mario Tazzoli, Turin.
Gino Lizzola, Milan.
Galleria Farsetti, Prato.
E. Caramaschi, Arese.
Galleria Marescalchi, Bologna.
Acquired from the above by the present owner on 19 June 2002.
L. Vitali, Morandi: Catalogo generale, vol. II, 1948-1964, Milan, 1983, no. 1360 (illustrated).
Cortina d'Ampezzo, 1992, no. 40 (illustrated).
Bologna, Galleria Marescalchi, Morandi, Le temps et les choses, March - April 2001, no. 11, p. 56 (illustrated p. 57).
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Artist's Resale Right ("Droit de Suite"). Artist's Resale Right Regulations 2006 apply to this lot, the buyer agrees to pay us an amount equal to the resale royalty provided for in those Regulations, and we undertake to the buyer to pay such amount to the artist's collection agent.

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Adrienne Everwijn-Dumas
Adrienne Everwijn-Dumas

Lot Essay

Inhabited by the legendary bottles which filled the artist's studio in Via Fondazza in Bologna, Natura morta reveals the profound act of scrutiny central to Giorgio Morandi's art. Arranged in a row at the edge of a table, three flasks elongate their necks from their squat bodies. Set behind the group, a few jugs appear in the gaps between them. Tightly arranged together, the objects form a rhythmic dialogue with each other, setting complementary contrasts of shapes, tones and planes. Around them are a bare table, a bare wall and diffused light.

Painted in 1948, Natura morta belongs to a period in Morandi's career in which his still lifes entered a new dimension. What appear to be the same yellow and white flasks which figure in this painting had already been portrayed by the artist in 1929 (Vitali, 152). That early work presents a similarly clustered group of jugs, bottles and flasks to which the passage of light from left to right gives substantial presence in space. Compared to the 1929 painting, the 1948 still life seems to belong to another pictorial reality, bathed with light and yet deprived of shadow. Instead, a trembling, ambiguous black aura surrounds the objects' outlines, blurring the spatial relationships of their bodies. The table on which they rest and the wall behind them have dissolved into areas of flat colour in which light expands, instead of colliding. Although rooted in the physical world of the artist's studio - Morandi slept surrounded by his bottles - Natura morta is liberated from material constraints and instead represents the mental space of perception, verging on the edge of abstraction.

Conforming to a trend that characterised Morandi's post-war production, Natura morta is part of a series of four closely related paintings inflecting subtle variations of a same group of objects (Vitali, 642, 643 and 644). Shifting the bottles' position a little, moving the picture's frame a fraction in another direction or playing with the shading of the colours, Morandi did not approach the series as a simplistic exercise in the quest for perfection. Rather, the repetitions appear as the products of an obsessive enquiry into the realm of the visible. As Laura Mattioli Rossi - the daughter of Morandi's patron Gianni Mattioli - observed, the very seriality of these works hints at the philosophical implications of his oeuvre (L. Mattioli Rossi, 'Giorgio Morandi: Questions of Method', pp. 9-26, in The Later Morandi: Still Lifes 1950-1964, exh. cat., Venice, 1998, pp. 11-13). The group of related paintings hints at the impossibility of capturing a definitive image of the world. In this way, Natura morta poetically expresses its own limitations, becoming the timeless, yet ephemeral record of the fugitive phenomenon that is nature.

One of Morandi's friends, the writer Dino Campana, wrote in one of his short stories: 'We know that the surest - and quickest - way to amaze ourselves is to stare fixedly at a given object. At one point, it will seem to us - miraculously - that we are seeing it for the first time' (D. Campana, quoted in M. Pasquali, 'Perception and Allusion in Giorgio Morandi's Mature Art', pp. 41-50, in op. cit, p. 43). Negotiating its position between realism and abstraction and presenting art as the only realm where the phenomenon and the absolute can meet, Morandi's Natura morta seems to invite its viewer to share a similar experience of reality.

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