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Morandi's ways of seeing
As part of the Didaktika Project, the Museum designs didactic spaces and special activities that complement every exhibition, providing tools and resources, both in the galleries and online, to facilitate the appreciation and understanding of the works exhibited.
This educational space proposes a game of observation and analysis around the art of Giorgio Morandi (b. 1890, Bologna; d. 1964, Bologna). Morandi’s paintings were inspired by his keen interest in the history of art. Morandi knew works by artists as diverse as Giovanni Bellini, Giotto di Bondone, Paul Cézanne, Lorenzo Costa, Piero della Francesca, Francisco de Goya y Lucientes, Nicolas Poussin, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Henri Rousseau, Tiziano Vecellio, and Francisco de Zurbarán through visits to museums, prints and illustrations in books, and conversations with Roberto Longhi (b. 1890, Alba; d. 1970, Florence), an art critic and historian and personal friend.
Morandi’s Landscape (1927):
Looking at Paul Cézanne
Morandi spent his summers in his studio in Grizzana, tucked away in the Emilian hillside. His idyllic surroundings influenced works such as his Landscape of 1927, which evokes the rich tradition of landscape painting that came before him.
In Landscape Morandi reimagines his studio through the eyes of artists such as Paul Cézanne (b. 1839, Aix-en-Provence; d. 1906, Aix-en-Provence). In its contrasting tones of greens, greys, and browns, it resembles Cézanne’s The House with the Cracked Walls, which was reproduced in a book on Cézanne published in the same year that Morandi created this scene. Even in black and white, it is easy to appreciate the quick tonal shifts across the surface of the Cézanne.
Reproductions in black and white also informed Morandi’s etching practice, which provided him with another medium through which to explore the subjects of his paintings. In his 1927 Landscape, Morandi uses this technique to see his Grizzana studio in a new light.
Morandi’s Still Life (1952):
Looking at Lorenzo Costa and Giovanni Bellini
Morandi’s still lifes often suggest an entire world with a few objects. In paintings such as his Still Life from 1952, that world was Bologna, the city where he lived and rarely left.
The bottles, vases, and boxes grouped together in this work resemble the rooftops and towers of Morandi’s native city. Bologna was represented in several paintings that Morandi could have seen in the National Pinacoteca of Bologna, including Madonna and Child Enthroned between Saints Petronius and Tecla by Lorenzo Costa (b. 1460, Ferrara; d. 1535, Mantua). The city-in-miniature in Saint Petronius’ hands reveals the interplay of forms that make up the Bolognese skyline and that reappear in Morandi’s still life.
Morandi most probably studied similar cityscapes in paintings by other Italian artists, such as St. Jerome in the Desert by Giovanni Bellini (b. ca. 1430, Venice; d. 1516, Venice). Formerly in the famous collection of Florentine collector Alessandro Contini Bonacossi, it is now in the Uffizi Gallery, a museum that Morandi visited often when in Florence.
Morandi’s Self-Portrait (1917-19):
Looking at Giotto di Bondone and Nicolas Poussin
Early in his career, Morandi realized a small number of self-portraits. The best known of these is his Self Portrait from 1917–19, which reveals his fascination with portraiture from different periods in art history.
Morandi represented himself in three-quarter profile, his face turned at a slight angle and his shoulders squared. He may have observed this format in the work of, for example, Giotto di Bondone (b. ca. 1266-67/76, Vespignano; d. 1337, Florence), who was widely admired by twentieth-century Italian painters. The painting of St. Stephen is one Morandi could have seen at the Horne Museum while visiting Florence.
The play of light and dark across Morandi’s facial features also suggests another source: Nicolas Poussin (b. 1594, Les Andelys; d. 1665, Rome). Morandi never saw a Poussin self-portrait in person, but he likely learned about these alternating shadows from the black-and-white photograph that he discovered at the Alinari Brothers’ photography laboratory in Florence. You can see an etching by Poussin with a similar theme
Morandi’s Flowers (1916):
Looking at Henri Rousseau
Flower paintings were a mainstay of Morandi’s artistic practice. His Flowers of 1916 reveals just how closely Morandi studied past examples of this genre.
Morandi’s Flowers is a close approximation of the Bouquet of Flowers with China Asters and Tokyos by Henry Rousseau (b. 1844, Laval; d. 1910, Paris). In the years just before Morandi made this flower painting, a pamphlet was published in Italy that included an illustration of Rousseau’s Bouquet of Flowers with China Asters and Tokyos. The pareddown palette and flat background in Morandi’s rendition remind us that his source was this illustration, and not the original.
Like Morandi, Rousseau rarely traveled. The tropical vegetation in his images of flowers—as well as in his landscapes—was inspired by visits to the Botanical Garden in Paris, rather than trips to the jungle. Morandi experienced this garden too, through Rousseau’s artworks.
Morandi’s Still Life (1956):
Looking at Francisco de Zurbarán through Francisco de Goya y Lucientes
As with his Still Life of 1956, Morandi’s paintings were mostly simple arrangements of everyday objects. In its modest subject matter, this still life follows the long tradition of depicting life in the kitchen.
The formal connections are clear between this work and the kitchen scenes by painters such as Giuseppe Maria Crespi (b. 1665, Bologna; d. 1747, Bologna) and especially Francisco de Zurbarán (b. 1598, Fuente de Cantos; d. 1664, Madrid). Its palette of browns, greys, and whites recalls canvases by these artists that Morandi could have seen at exhibitions in Italian museums.
Morandi rediscovered artists such as Zurbarán through the eyes of Francisco de Goya y Lucientes (b. 1746, Fuendetodos; d. 1828, Bordeaux). In 1956, Morandi went to Winterthur, Switzerland for the inauguration of his exhibition at the local art museum. While there, he saw Three Salmon Steaks in the renowned collection of Oskar Reinhart. The dramatic lighting and humble subject of this still life suggest that Goya shared Morandi’s admiration for the Spanish Golden Age.
A photographic Look at Morandi's still lifes
Fridays, May 17 and 24, 6:30 pm
Introductory photography class spotlighting the still life. Vases, candles, flowers, fruit, skulls, and the particular vantage point of artist Elssie Ansareo (whose work is part of the Museum Collection) towards Giorgio Morandi.
Venue: Museum Library
Film Series. Film Afternoons "Alla Morandi"
Saturday, May 25 and Sunday, May 26
Enjoy a selection of masterpieces of cinematography, films where Morandi’s imprint is clear by directors ranging from Federico Fellini to Luca Guadagnino and Michelangelo Antonioni.
Audio guide and adapted guides
The audio guides, available at the Museum entrance, provide further information on the works in each exhibition.
Ask at the Information desk for audio/video guides for people with cognitive, hearing and/or visual impairments.
Free quick tours on the artworks exhibited. Check times, topics, and available languages at the Information desk.
Tickets: Free admission. Max. 20 people (first come, first served; no prior reservation). Groups will not be admitted