Monday, December 08, 2008

Morandi's Silence

The Metropolitan Museum in New York is currently having a retrospective of Giorgio Morandi (1890-1964), the 20th century Italian painter.

Morandi studied art in the Accademia di Belle Arti, Firenze, and lived his whole life in Bologna with his three sisters. Early in his artistic career, he met with Carra and di Chirico and aligned himself briefly with the Pittura Metafisica movement. But Morandi was not interested much in isms, nor in external events, though he is now considered one of the most important forerunners of Minimalism. He was in fact deeply introverted and held a detached perspective on common events, as evident in his work.

All alone in his studio, he never stopped painting, drawing and engraving a deeply personal universe: vases, bottles, bowls and boxes, stripped of all trivial detail. When looking at these small compositions of silence and meditation, one can clearly see the influences of the great masters: Giotto, Massaccio and Piero de la Francesca - from the simplicity of his palate to his focus on the eternal through geometric form. He once said: "Nothing is more abstract than the visual world", a profound statement, and with personal restraint he concentrated on form, color and space to capture the eternal in objects. He is considered the quintessential artist’s artist, but even someone not finely tuned in to visual artistic processes, may appreciate his efforts.

Morandi lived during WWII, extremely difficult times. Perhaps during these trying days, the calm, yet fully alive work of such a master, someone whose lifetime dedication was the investigation of reality through the familiar with profound integrity and simplicity, would be inspiring. The stillness of these paintings might open the viewer to a sense of serenity and infinite possibilities.

The show is only the second retrospective of Morandi ever held in the US and closes on December 14. There are over 100 still lives, but Morandi painted the same subjects repeatedly and there's really no need to see them all. Fully focusing on two or three that capture your eye, and joining him in his meditative quest, is all you need to do in order to gain a great deal more than you ever thought you needed. It's that simple.


The Metropolitan Museum
1000 Fifth Avenue at 82nd Street
New York, New York 10028-0198
Information: 212-535-7710