Pictured Top: Giorgio Morandi (1890-1964), Still Life, 1933, etching,258 x 304mm Image: Courtesy Galleria d’Arte Maggiore GAM, Bologna (Italy)
Pictured Middle: Still Life, 1962, watercolour on paper, 160 x 210mm Image: Courtesy Galleria d’Arte Maggiore GAM, Bologna (Italy)
Pictured Bottom: Right, Houses of Campiaro in Grizzana, 1929, etching, 228.5 x 348mm Image: Courtesy Galleria d’Arte Maggiore GAM, Bologna (Italy)
Published: 17 January, 2013
by JOHN EVANS
THE artist’s sister once remarked that he loved “modest and unglamorous things”. She might have added that the works these things prompted are obviously intense and, as the experts put it, “captivating in their restraint… and… evocative of time and place”.
The Estorick Collection of Modern Italian Art starts celebrations of its 15th anniversary this week with a career-spanning exhibition of 80 intimate etchings, and a few watercolours and drawings, by a master of aesthetic artistic understatement, the Bologna-based Georgio Morandi (1890-1964).
At the launch of the 2013 celebrations at the gallery, chairman Michael Estorick praised Morandi as a great artist of “singular vision and extraordinary gifts” who was able to paint still lifes as “great landscapes”.
The show’s focus is works on paper, including prints from the gallery’s own collection, works in private hands, and major loans from the Bologna Galleria d’Arte Maggiore, which collaborated in organising this exhibition.
Reclusive and once dubbed “the monk”, Morandi was entirely self-taught as a printmaker yet went on to hold a professorial chair in the discipline for more than 20 years in Bologna. His etchings date from around 1912 and early examples are included here. There is The Bridge over the Savena in Bologna 1912, and Landscape Grizzana 1913 (the town, where he would holiday, was renamed Grizzana Morandi in 1985 in his honour) and Still Life with Bottles and Pitcher from 1915. Each displays subtle and distinctive use of fine cross-hatching, a technique which he was to develop and evolve with time.
Take note, this is a show predominantly of still lifes, albeit how they can relate, reflect and bounce off real life. For the human face, there are merely a Portrait of Torquato Raimondi and an unnamed Sleeping Female Figure from 1925 and 1926. The few watercolours, rarely seen in the UK, among them Still Life from 1962 demonstrate Morandi’s use of near-abstract forms to show us what he wants us to see. The Estorick has a small, late Morandi oil on this theme in its collection.
Morandi’s aim is to make us see beyond the things in front of him. Bottles, pots, jars, tins, coffee pots, cylinders and more are meticulously placed and used for an exploration of light and shadow. He offers untouched areas of a print, dramatically, to describe a river or road and complement complex variations of tone created by his cross-hatching technique.
He is constantly experimenting whatever the subject – still life, a flower study, or the Apennine landscape that he so obviously loved.
What is ever present is a tension between abstraction and figuration.
Exhibited here with Morandi’s works are a number of delicate images, reworked Polaroid and digital prints, by Bolognese photographer Nino Migliori (b 1926), created in the mid-1980s, from a series Imagined Landscapes: The Places of Morandi.
• Giorgio Morandi: Lines of Poetry, until April 7, at the Estorick, 39a Canonbury Square, N1, call 020 7704 9522 or see www.estorickcollection.com