Giorgio Morandi (1890-1964)
Natura Morta
signed 'Morandi' (lower left )
oil on canvas
10 x 12 1/8 in. (25.3 x 30.7 cm.)
Painted in 1959
Lamberto Vitali, Milan (by 1977).
Monte Titano Arte, San Marino.
Claude Berri, Paris (acquired from the above).
By descent from the above to the present owner.
L. Vitali, Morandi Catalogo Generale, Milan, 1977, vol. 2, no. 1150 (illustrated).
London, Tate Modern and Paris, Musée d'Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris, Morandi, dans l'écart du réel, May 2001-January 2002, p. 155, no. 47 (illustrated in color, p. 71).

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Max Carter
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Lot Essay

“I came across a painting that stopped me in my tracks,” Vija Celmins recalled, when in New York during the late 1950s she first encountered a still-life painting by Giorgio Morandi. “On closer inspection, I discovered how strange the painting was, how the objects seemed to be fighting for each other’s space. One could not determine their size or location. They appeared both flat and dimensional, and were so tenderly painted that the paint itself seemed to be the subject” (quoted in Giorgio Morandi, exh. cat., Tate Gallery, London, 2001, p. 36).
Steeped in a meditative discipline of humility, stillness, and silence, Morandi’s art shunned the impulsive striving for individual, theatrical effect that elsewhere prevailed in post-war European and American art. “I am essentially a painter of the kind of still-life composition,” Morandi explained to Edouard Roditi in 1958, “that communicates a sense of tranquility and privacy, moods which I have always valued above all else.” He cultivated the art of painting in what he believed to be its most essential impetus, as a discerning perception of reality, a process of focus and discovery that transcended the contentious theoretical issues of abstraction versus representation. “I believe that nothing can be more abstract, more unreal, than that which we actually see” (quoted in Dialogues on Art, Santa Barbara, 1980, pp. 48 and 51).
In Morandi’s continuous, daily practice of seeing and painting, it was not the finality or significance of a single image, but the very process itself, moving from one work to the next, that had become during the 1950s his primary, abiding concern. The progress of his oeuvre at this stage may be marked off in clusters of variazioni—in the case of the present Natura Morta, comprising two long-necked bottles and two containers (one cylindrical and the other squared off at the top), all of approximately equal height, with a small canister to the side. The fluted neck of a third bottle appears behind, visible in the space between the two containers. With the addition of one or two other elements, these objects served as the basis for a series of ten canvases (Vitali, nos. 1147-1156). The frontal effect of the compact, block-like, architectural configuration of these objects, lit head-on and shadowless, is all the more impressive in the nearly square canvas format that Morandi increasingly employed at this time.
Color—“as soft and warming as swansdown,” James Thrall Soby commented—appears to well up from within each object (“Giorgio Morandi,” Saturday Review, 4 January 1958, p. 24). “Morandi shows us the substance of silence,” Joost Zwagerman has written. “His work allows us the nearly impossible: to experience the inside of silence from the outside of that same silence. Morandi, in his things, gave the silence a form and a color” (Giorgio Morandi Retrospective, exh. cat., Center for Fine Arts, Brussels, 2013, p. 203).

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