giorgio morandi – still life abstracts

Giorgio Morandi Zwirner

Natura morta (Still Life), 1952 | Oil on canvas | 16 1/8 x 19 5/16 inches (41 x 49 cm) | Private Collection | © 2015 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/SIAE, Rome

Giorgio Morandi (1890-1964) painted some of my favorite and most stunning still life compositions of the 20th century. For an artist who never travelled outside of Europe, and rarely strayed far from his hometown of Bologna, Morandi’s art now has an important international following. This includes all the major world art museums and important private collectors including the White House, courtesy of President Barack Obama. His paintings are deceptively simple and yet incredibly atmospheric at the same time. I was recently ecstatic to see Morandi given a show in New York at David Zwirner Gallery in Chelsea, the first since the MET’s show in 2008.


Giorgio Morandi Zwirner

Natura morta (Still Life), 1946 | Oil on canvas | 14 15/16 x 18 1/8 inches (37.9 x 46 cm) | Framed: 19 5/8 x 22 9/16 x 1 5/8 inches (49.8 x 57.3 x 4.1 cm) | Private Collection | © 2015 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/SIAE, Rome

As an artist, Giorgio Morandi is very repetitive in his work – much like his compatriot Lucio Fontana – and you either love or hate his art. Morandi’s career as an artist began in the years leading up to the First World War and the works of the great artists working in Paris like Cezanne and Picasso clearly had an influence on him. In 1915 he joined the Italian army, but suffered a breakdown and was discharged.   During the 1920s and the rise of Fascism in Italy, Morandi managed to keep his distance from politics, an easy task since his still life’s and occasional landscapes are devoid of any political meaning.


Giorgio Morandi Zwirner

Giorgio Morandi | Natura morta (Still Life), 1959 | Oil on canvas 10 1/16 x 11 7/8 inches (25.5 x 30.2 cm) | Framed: 13 13/16 x 15 3/4 x 1 11/16 inches (35.1 x 40 x 4.3 cm) | © 2015 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/SIAE, Rome

The last chapter of his career – roughly from 1948 to 1964 – were Morandi’s most prolific years with over half of his 1350 paintings dating to this period.   All the work featured here is from this time. In this phase Morandi worked almost exclusively in series using subtle gradations of color and tone to rework familiar compositions of vases and bottles. Hung together in David Zwirner’s gallery, the viewer is given an incredible chance to see the progression of the artist’s work and style in this period.


Giorgio Morandi Zwirner_yellow

Natura morta (Still Life), 1954 | Oil on canvas | 12 15/16 x 15 13/16 inches (33 x 40.2 cm) | Framed: 16 11/16 x 19 11/16 x 1 11/16 inches (42.4 x 50 x 4.3 cm) | © 2015 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/SIAE, Rome

For collectors looking to buy serious art, Giorgio Morandi offers a good starting point since his paintings are attractive and simple rather than brash or “loud” as can be the case of modern or contemporary art. These are also very “livable” pieces with the largest work here still a manageable 16 x 20 inches. And unlike many of his contemporaries, Morandi’s still life’s fit seamlessly into both contemporary and traditional room schemes thanks to their subdued compositions and tones.


Giorgio Morandi Zwirner_ocre

Natura morta (Still Life), 1949 | Oil on canvas | 12 x 17 15/16 inches (30.5 x 45.5 cm) | 19 3/16 x 25 3/16 x 2 3/8 inches (48.7 x 63.9 x 6 cm) (framed) | © 2015 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/SIAE, Rome

Giorgio Morandi at David Zwirner, NYC, runs through Saturday 19 December 2015.


Richard Rabel is a New York Interior Designer and Principal at Richard Rabel: Interiors+ Art, a studio offering residential design, decorating and art advising.

image credits: Giorgio Morandi: as noted and with thanks to David Zwirner, New York.