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

Natura morta

Giorgio Morandi (1890-1964)
Natura morta
signed 'Morandi' (lower right)
oil on canvas
13 3/8 x 15¾ in. (34 x 40 cm.)
Painted circa 1956
Professor Dr G.L. Floersheim.
Acquired from the above by the present owner.
L. Vitali, Morandi: Catalogo generale, vol. II, 1948-1964, Milan, 1977, no. 983 (illustrated).
Winterthur, Kunstmuseum, Giorgio Morandi, Giacomo Manzù, June - August 1956, no. 54.
Vevey, Musée Jenisch, Peintres du silence: Julius Bissier, Giorgio Morandi, Ben Nicholson, Mark Rothko, Mark Tobey, Italo Valenti, September - October 1981, no. 174.
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Lot Essay

Painted circa 1956, Natura morta is suffused with the atmosphere of contemplation and tranquillity that marks the greatest of Giorgio Morandi's still life compositions. Here, boxes, a vase and a bottle have been placed together in a grouping at the centre of the canvas, which aside from these objects is articulated mainly with the bars of the foreground surface upon which they rest and the wall in the background, recalling the rigorous, pared-back forms of Mark Rothko's abstractions. In contrast to this almost abstract horizontality are the cluster of objects, which are emphatically figurative. The way that Morandi has balanced them together adds a mysterious tension, forcing the viewer's attention upon them. They demand our focus and thus our meditation.

Natura morta was exhibited in the important retrospective of Morandi's works which was held in the Kunstverein in Winterthur, across the border from Italy in Switzerland; he shared the exhibition with Giacomo Manzù. The importance of the show is reflected in the fact that Morandi made one of his few excursions out of Italy on the occasion of its opening, travelling to Winterthur to attend it with Vitale Bloch and Lamberto Vitali. Morandi had previously been abroad only once, on that occasion again visiting Switzerland to see the collection of Baron Hans Heinrich Thyssen-Bornemisza at the famous Villa Favorita. Perhaps it was less with a view to seeing his own works on display that Morandi visited Winterthur in 1956: the day after the opening, he went to another legendary collection, that of Oskar Reinhart, which included works by a number of his favourite artists including Paul Cézanne and Jean-Baptiste-Siméon Chardin. It was later recalled that he stared for a long time at Chardin's Le faiseur de château de cartes in particular, and an influence on his subsequent paintings has often been discerned.

Morandi's paintings often show a thematic consistency: he predominantly painted still life compositions. However, throughout his career, external and internal influences made themselves felt, meaning that there is an infinite, lyrical variation at work throughout these pictures. Each has its own subtle character, in keeping with the dust-strewn, timeless atmosphere of mystical ascetic aesthetics at its core. Around the time that Natura morta was painted, several of Morandi's pictures were even linked to those of Piet Mondrian and the other artists linked to De Stijl; there had been several exhibitions dedicated to them in Italy. In Natura morta, the predominantly rectangular block of the composition, with its horizontal and vertical bars and edges and compartments of colour dictated by the various vessels can be seen as a figurative parallel to Mondrian's abstractions, despite Morandi's protests to the contrary. At the same time, this grouping recalls the hill-top castles and towns of his native Italian landscape that featured frequently in the Old Masters that Morandi so loved. In Natura morta, this assemblage of objects takes on epic proportions, becoming an indoor landscape while also recalling Morandi's own observation that, 'After all, even a still life is architecture' (Morandi, quoted in M.C. Bandera, 'Giorgio Morandi Today', pp. 24-45, in M.C. Bandera & R. Miracco, ed., Morandi: 1890-1964, Bologna & New York, 2008, p. 33).

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