In keeping with the name of this blog in past posts I have featured art works that involve images of bottles by well-known artists, including Braque, Vlaminck, Tom Wesselman, and Andy Warhol. See the references below in “Note.” In this post I am recognizing an artist whose reputation in large part is based on his representations of bottles and other glass, ceramic and metal vessels gathered in his studio. His name is Giorgio Morandi, shown here with some of the items. Look carefully since you will see them again in some of the paintings to follow.
Morandi was born in Bologna, Italy, on July 20, 1890, the son of Andrea and Maria (Maccaferri) Morandi. The eldest of five children, Giorgio exhibited an artistic talent from an early age and in 1907 was sent to Bologna’s Academy of Find Arts where he excelled in his studies. Tragedy was to strike twice during his youth. In 1903 his brother Guiseppe died and in 1909 his father as well, leaving a family in which the youngest child was only three. At 19 years old Giorgio became the head of the family.
Despite these setbacks Morandi pressed ahead with his art, obtaining a position as instructor of drawing for elementary schools in Bologna, a city in which he would spend his entire life. With 20th Century improvements in communication he early was exposed to and influenced by the art of Cezanne, Derain, Douanier Rousseau, and later Picasso.
From Cezanne in particular Morandi understood the drama that everyday objects — vases, bottles, cup, bowls, fruit — could bring to a painting. An early effort shown above bears distinct relationship to the French post-Impressionist master. This effort appears classical and stiff, however, when compared to Morandi’s later efforts. He began increasingly to focus on the subtle changes of color, of atmosphere and arrangement of objects.
In Italian this kind of art is called “natura morta” or still life. Morandi proved to be a master of the genre, gathering items into his studio that would be painted over and over again. Note, for example, the tin cans in the photo of the artist. They would appear repeatedly in his art in tandem with vases, cups and other shapes.
As shown here, glass bottles were also objects of Morandi’s attention. The painting below appears to have two tall wine bottles in the background, as well as a milk glass bottle that might have held a liqueur like absinthe. Note too the carafe at the left. The wine it contains can clearly be seen through the glass.
Morandi also was enamored of the shapes of ceramic objects, particularly the bottle or jug shape. Shown here is a grouping of several such objects, two of them very similar in shape, usually termed by bottle collectors as “lady’s leg.”
The artist has emphasized them by backing each with an unidentifiable dark object. Note his faint signature at the bottom of the work.
As he continued painting for more than a half century, Morandi continually refined and simplified his approach to his still life paintings. Shown here is a artwork from the 1950s in which he has reduced his objects to five with the only curves are seen on a bottle and cup largely covered by three boxlike objects of varying colors. Simple, but to my eye at least, one of the most sophisticated and elegant of his “natura morta.”
A prolific worker, Morandi completed an estimated 1,350 paintings during his lifetime. Providing that he was not just “a one trick pony” with his still life output he also was a superb landscape artist, as demonstrated by the picture below. Even then, however, the buildings shown are reminiscent of the boxes above.
As a lifelong resident of Bologna, Morandi was a well recognized figure in his home town. He never married, living on Via Fordazza all his life with his three sisters. He died on June 18, 1964 and is buried in a family tomb at Bologna’s Certosa Cemetery. His reputation in the art world has continued to be strong, with major exhibitions this century at the New York Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Brussels Center for Fine Arts. His work is on continuous display at the Giorgio Morandi Museum in Bologna.
Note: Other posts on this blog that have featured bottles in art are the following: Andy Warhol, January 28, 2011; George Braque, July 20, 2013; Tom Wesselman, December 7, 2013, and Maurice de Vlaminck, January 18, 2014.