is paying a tribute to the Italian modernist artist Giorgio Morandi (who was born in Bologna in 1890 and died in 1964). His delicate still lifes, always reduced to their bare essence, are iconic works of modern art. His sense of colour, tone, and composition are still a source of inspiration for many artists, writers, and film-makers today.
Curator Maria Cristina Bandera, the Morandi specialist par excellence, provides visitors with a comprehensive overview of the master's oeuvre.
The exhibition is arranged chronologically and thematically and shows Morandi's artistic development from his early years to the end of his career as it presents his major themes (landscapes and still lifes of vases, shells and flowers) and the varied techniques (oil on canvas, drawing, engraving, and watercolour) that he explored in his work.
The retrospective brings together 100 works by Morandi, including a unique self portrait, on loan from more than 40 prestigious private and public collections.
Influences and stylistic development
Morandi is one of the most recognisable and, at the same time, most enigmatic artists of the 20th century. Despite the international recognition that came his way in his own lifetime, he led a secluded life with his three sisters in Bologna.
As a student at the Academy of Fine Arts in Bologna, he took a particular interest in French Impressionists and painters such as Paul Cézanne, Georges Seurat, Henri Rousseau and Pierre-Auguste Renoir and early Italian artists such as Giotto, Masaccio, Paolo Uccello, and Piero della Francesca. Although he hardly ever travelled, he was well aware of contemporary avant-garde trends such as cubism, futurism,
and pittura metafisica. Around 1920, drawing on all those influences, Morandi created his own individual style, which he would continue to refine throughout his career.
Morandi worked obsessively on two key themes: the landscapes of his environs (the Apennines around Bologna and the Cortile di Via Fondazza) and still lifes of vases, shells, and flowers. In these he painted the same objects again and again in similar settings, but with minimal variations in composition, viewpoint, and colour. He was also a master of the use of different techniques: a subject painted in oil on canvas creates a different atmosphere when it is depicted in a drawing, an engraving, or a watercolour. For him, each technique was of equal value and he made full use of them all to experiment with.
Morandi's artistic development can be seen as one of consistent development, without major changes of style. His whole oeuvre is a constant search for the essence and purity of forms: his later works come close to abstraction.
An artist's artist
Morandi is a true "artist's artist" and his work continues to fascinate other artists today. His paintings feature in films by Michelangelo Antonioni (La notte, 1961), Federico Fellini (La dolce vita, 1960), Robert Aldrich (Kiss Me Deadly, 1955), and Luca Guadagnino (Io sono l'Amore, 2009) and in the writings of Pier Paolo Pasolini, Paul Auster, Don De Lillo, and Siri Hustvedt. The works of contemporary artists including Lawrence Carroll, Tacita Dean, and Tony Cragg also include references to him.
To illustrate the extent of Morandi's influence on other artists, BOZAR has also turned to the other arts. The curator, Maria Cristina Bandera, selected Luc Tuymans as a guest artist; in the final room of the exhibition, Tuymans presents works of his own including Intolerance (1993), Church (1990), and Plates (2002) in a dialogue with Morandi.
Giorgio Morandi was born on 20 July 1890 in Bologna. After his father's death in 1909, the family moved to a house in the Via Fondazza, where he continued to live with his mother and three sisters until his death in 1964.
From 1907 to 1913 he studied at the Academy of Fine Arts of his home town, where he would later teach. He gradually made a name for himself in the art world. In 1928 he took part in the Venice Biennale with a series of engravings. Two years later, his growing reputation led to his appointment to the chair of Engraving at the Bologna Academy. In 1934 the great art historian Roberto Longhi called him "one of the best living painters in Italy". His big international breakthrough came at the Venice Biennale of 1948, where he won the first prize for painting, which straight away made him one of Italy's most respected artists.
Morandi's career coincided with a turbulent period in Italy, under the Mussolini regime (19221945) and during the two world wars. In 1915 he was called up to serve during the First World War, but suffered a breakdown and was soon released from the front.
Although Morandi enjoyed international recognition during his own lifetime, he continued to live a simple life. He lived and worked in a single plain room, surrounded by the objects he depicted in his works of art.