Still Life (Metaphysical) by Giorgio Morandi


Natura morta metafisica (1918) by Giorgio MorandiFondazione Magnani-Rocca

The artist

Morandi is a legitimate member of the XIX century Olympus of great painters and engravers: his iconic still lives, characterized by a poetic and surreal atmosphere for the presence of very few colors, represent objects of common use reduced to their pure essence.

He attended with merit the Academy of fine arts in Bologna, his native town, getting out, especially in the last years, of the classic canons, attracted as he was by the artworks of the impressionists, the cubists and, particularly, by Cézanne’s art. He also drew from the great Italian masters of the past, such as Giotto, Masaccio and Paolo Uccello.

In a first phase, until 1919, he approached the Carrà’s and de Chirico’s Metafisica movement and then, in 1920, he joined the group “Valori plastici”. Subsequently, he undertook a very personal path, remaining an active member of the principal intellectual and artistic environment of his time.

The scene

The painting, purchased at an auction by Luigi Magnani in 1973, can be collocated in a phase of return to the canons of classicism, starting from the artists of the XIV-XV century mentioned above, and of closeness to Metafisica.

The artwork is composed by four subjects: a box painted in three colors, 

a dark bottle of red wine, 

a long pipe,

and a mannequin, a completely novel element, here depicted halved. 

Morandi employs the Metafisica’s language in a purely intimate, contemplative and sentimental sense. In the artwork, we can still find a sense of temporal suspension, however lacking in the enigmatic and ironic symbolism typical of de Chirico’s works. 

The mannequin itself is not an alive character, but it consists essentially in its very same volume, in its plastic measure.

The pictorial technique

In his still lives, Morandi almost completely waives spatial depth, focusing on the objects’ surface itself, reducing any plastic movement to it. 

The chromatic toning, originated by a palette composed by grey and light pink, are applied in a uniform and balanced way, smoothing and stretching the surfaces in a personal conception that is formal and conceptual at the same time.

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