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Giorgio Morandi

Italian Painter and Printmaker

Giorgio Morandi Photo

Born: July 20, 1890 - Bologna, Italy

Died: June 18, 1964 - Bologna, Italy

"One can travel this world and see nothing. To achieve understanding it is necessary not to see many things, but to look hard at what you do see."

Giorgio Morandi Signature

Summary of Giorgio Morandi

Holed up in a small room in the center of Italy, far from the avant-garde of his day, Giorgio Morandi painstakingly worked to unlock the puzzles of art, the questions of modern painting, looking for the structure and order that underlies the process of representation itself. With a sparse selection of household objects and familiar landscapes, painted in muted tones and warm light, Giorgio Morandi bridged the grand legacy of Italian art and 20th-century modernism. With carefully crafted tonal relationships and a sense of palpable light and space, his paintings extended a tradition of representational painting while creating a minimalist aesthetic that remained relevant in the face of abstraction. Ultimately, Morandi's poetic style did not escape the attention of his contemporaries and established a legacy for generations of representational painters.

Key Ideas

Morandi grounded his work in familiar and universal forms and yet suggested an autobiographical quality in his careful paint handling and attention to an identifiable Italian quality of light. Although he painted generic household objects, critics noted how his representation of these objects conveyed a sense of Morandi's personality, monastic habits, and Bolognese environment. His tightly unified body of work would be influential for its close study of unremarkable elements of daily life, imbuing them with implications of deeper significance by emphasizing their painterly beauty and simplicity.
Engaged with his own pictorial experiments, Morandi was seemingly unaffected by contemporary art movements when the avant-garde was overwhelmingly interested in abstract painting. Yet, his concerns were similar to experiments by his contemporaries; for example he approached color, line, light, space, and brushstroke, as problems to be solved through careful study and nuanced adjustments. His realism was not simple reproduction of a subject; comparing Morandi's paintings with photographs of the objects he depicted, his manipulations of volume, shape and space become clear. As a contemporary critic, J.T. Soby exclaimed, "[Morandi separates] volumes and color and then interlock[s] them again in an alchemy he alone understood." Moreover, Morandi imbued these elements with emanating light that is far less evident in reproductions of his work, but that is palpable in the original paintings.
With his attention to technique and painstaking precision, Morandi extended the legacy of Italian painting into the 20th century, but gave it new relevance with his minimalist style and non-narrative focus. The sparse palette, clean lines, and careful brushstroke of Morandi's still lifes are unmistakably modern and his attention to technique and the physicality of the painted surface connected later painters with the grand traditions of the still life and landscape genres.
Giorgio Morandi Photo

Giorgio Morandi was the eldest of five children, born into a middle-class family in Bologna, Italy. His only brother died in childhood. Morandi developed an interest in art from an early age, displeasing his father who wanted his son to join him in his export business; Morandi attempted this unsuccessfully in 1906 before enrolling at the Bologna Academy of Fine Arts in 1907. His pursuit of art as a career is owed in part to his failure at his father's company, his resistance to changing his focus on art despite his father's best efforts, and because of his mother's belief that her son should follow his dreams.

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