Painted in 1963, Natura morta is filled with the contemplative light and absorbing composition that have become the hallmark of Morandi's paintings. The artist has taken a deliberately simple group of objects and has painted them from a vaguely towering angle. Isolated in the centre of the table that supports them, these become strangely monumental, as though Natura morta were in fact a form of domestic landscape, the various elements like small castles on a plateau. The artist, often considered a recluse, did lead an almost monastic life, living in relative austerity with his sisters in Bologna (he was no recluse, though, and taught and led an active though selective social life); the austere scenes in his Nature morte really do reflect the raw essence of his own surroundings, of his universe. And yet, as Nature morta shows, this universe was itself rich with profundity and association.
Morandi has distilled the forms of nature and the forms of the world to a point that teeters on the brink of abstraction. His carefully contrived composition is designed to provoke and promote the contemplation of the wider world. In his later works, the painterly forms that Morandi used in order to conjure up a vision of his personal yet universal vision became increasingly abstracted. Here, the strong horizontal shadows deliberately convey little sense of depth or perspective but are bars across the canvas. Likewise, some of the forms melt into their background. The shapes have taken on a deep visual harmony that is almost divorced from the objects that they originally delineated and depicted. As Morandi himself stated:
'the real philosophy book, the book on nature, is written in letters unknown to our alphabet. These letters are triangles, squares, circles, spheres, pyramids, cones and other geometric shapes. I identify with the Galilean field of thought in my old conviction that the feelings and images aroused by the visible world, which is a formal world, are very difficult, or perhaps impossible, to express in words. In effect they are feelings which have no relationship or a very indirect relationship with effects and with everyday interests, inasmuch as they are determined, as I said before, by shapes, colours, space and light' (Interview with Morandi, 'Voice of America', Presto Recording Corporation Paramus, New Jersey, 25 April 1957).