'I am essentially a painter of the kind of still life composition that communicates a sense of tranquillity and privacy, moods which I have always valued above all else' (Giorgio Morandi, quoted in L. Klepac, Giorgio Morandi: the dimension of inner space, exh.cat., Sydney, 1997, p. 12).
Painted in 1946, Natura morta shows a simple arrangement of domestic objects laid upon a surface. And yet, through Morandi's unique vision, the various vessels take on a monumentality within their own universe that hints at concerns that are at once philosophical and above all metaphysical. This picture is a source of contemplation, and the viewer senses that the artist himself was engaged in a contemplative act when he painted it. The delicate light, reminiscent of Chardin, and the gentle use of tones introduce a stillness that is deeply affecting and atmospheric, despite the supposed simplicity of the scene and the objects themselves. Morandi has created a miniature landscape within the confines of his Bologna studio and, by rigorously examining the composition and arrangement of these everyday objects, he appears to have tapped into a profound, even secret, hidden layer of significance.
Morandi, who seldom left his native Bologna, has been mistakenly labelled a recluse, despite the fact that he had an active life both in a social context and as a teacher. However, there was a hermit-like quality to the way in which he lived, with the utmost simplicity, with his sisters, retiring to his studio in order to arrange the various bottles, jars, vases, jugs and pots that would feature in his still life pictures. He would spend hours, and sometimes even days, in finding a composition that was suitably expressive, inducing the correct air of contemplation. His fellow painter and fellow adventurer in the realms of the Metafisica Giorgio de Chirico explained the enchanting mystery of these works when he wrote that Morandi
'gazes with the eye of a believer, and the innermost bones of these things, dead to us because their life is stilled, appear to him in their most consoling guise: in their everlasting aspect. Thus he shares in the great lyricism created by the latest and deepest European art: the metaphysics of the most common objects; those which habit has made so familiar to us that, however wise we may be to the mysteries of appearance, we often look at them with seeing yet unknowing eyes' (Giorgio de Chirico, quoted in ibid., p. 12).