Monday, February 29, 2016

Giorgio Morandi – Jake Schapiro

Giorgio Morandi (1890-1964) was a 20th century painter and etcher known for his simplistic subject and subtle tones. Morandi was born in Bologna in 1890 and spent the entirety of his life there. At the age of 17, Morandi enrolled in the Academy of Fine Arts of Bologna where he became acquainted with the work of 14th-century painters. Despite being a great student, Morandi veered from traditional styles during his later years at the academy much to the dismay of his professors. Through the 1910's and early 1920's, Morandi experimented with varying styles and became exposed to futurist and metaphysical styles before settling on the familiar style of his later work. Morandi died in 1964 in Bologna and is buried in his family tomb there.

The majority of Morandi’s work focuses on familiar forms including bottles, bowls, and landscapes. As an artist studying in Bologna at the turn of the 20th century, Morandi’s work was heavily influenced by that of Paul Cézanne, Georges Braque, Pablo Picasso, and Henri Rousseau among many other influential and renowned artists. Morandi focused on the natural world, as is clear through his color and form, and used value and surface in a minimalist approach that had not previously been widely adapted. As such, Morandi became a leader for the Minimalism style of visual arts that has become prominent in post-World War II Western Art. As an early adopter of Minimalism, Morandi’s work is both innovative and celebrated worldwide including the Giorgio Morandi Museum and works in the White House collection.

Landscape, 1962.
Oil on canvas,
30x35 cm.

The work on the right exhibits Morandi's emphasis on Minimalism and natural tone. The use of basic shapes to bring the natural world into easily recognizable structures is reminiscent of Morandi's style that has achieved great success and has influenced the style of contemporary art. The landscape uses line form and color tone to signify the natural world while veering from a traditional approach in which the figures would be realistic and accurate depictions of the landscape and bring the viewer to the space. 

Landscape, 1944.
Oil on canvas,
31x53 cm.

Meanwhile, on the left we see a landscape slightly more recognizable to the naked eye involving depth and the use of perspective to show the hills. Morandi utilized negative space to contrast the light and dark areas of the landscape and provide layered foreground and background. This painting is a nice example of the earlier techniques used by Morandi to explore the relationship between figure and ground based on the light values associated with area.

The White Road, 1933.
Etching on copper
20.8x30.3 cm. 

In one of his earlier works as an etcher, Morandi uses empirical perspective to create a beautiful and realistic country landscape. These etches, while significantly different from Morandi's later work in Minimalism, rely extensively on shading to create value and depict the space. These etches act as great examples for Morandi's understanding of layered shading to provide additional depth beyond that of the empirical perspective.

Still Life, 1960-64.
13.5x25.8 cm.

This use of shading to depict space and depth is still present in his later still-life work with bottle and vase forms. Morandi relies on shading to capture the light reflecting on the surface of his forms and creates a minimalist yet recognizable form. 

I chose to focus on Giorgio Morandi for this assignment because, much like our coursework up to this point, Morandi’s work was nearly exclusively still lives with a few landscapes and an intense focus on few plain figures in unique arrangements. His still-life compositions drew upon hard use of line and the integration of objects in space. Furthermore, Morandi achieved visual interest in his work through the use of contrasting light and dark areas as an application of the concept of negative space. One thing I found particularly noteworthy about his work is the depiction of the same bottles and vases throughout his works with simple techniques and earthy tones to draw upon the familiar and invite the viewer to a scene they could easily call upon.

Still Life, 1960.
25x34 cm.
Still Life, 1959.
Oil on canvas,
30x35 cm.
This example to the left of Morandi's later work is a prime example of his use of negative space to create objects previously used in his work in a new and innovative form. Meanwhile, the example to the right  from the previous year shows the artist's growing interest in negative space while still relying primarily on line and line weight to create images of more obvious bottle forms. The work below shows some of Morandi's more recognizable bottle forms before his in-depth exploration of new techniques for depicting a minimalist and abstract form of these bottles. I've included this work because while it is easily recognizable unlike the images above, it shows an exploration of a dark negative space contrasting with a light figure. Although shading is still the primary technique used here, this work is formative in Morandi's later exploration.
Still Life, 1952.
Oil on canvas,
35.5x45.5 cm.


(2012). Giorgio Morandi. Cinisello Balsamo, Milano, Silvana Editoriale.

Morandi, G. (2013). Giorgio Morandi : a retrospective. Milan, Silvana editoriale : Brussels : Bozar.

Wilkin, K. (1997). Giorgio Morandi. New York, Rizzoli.

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