Giorgio Morandi, 1890–1964
September 16–December 14, 2008
Accompanied by a catalogue
Giorgio Morandi was born on July 20, 1890, in Bologna, Italy, one of the oldest and most prestigious University towns in Europe. Nearly all his life was spent there working quietly in a modest studio and apartment that he shared with his three sisters. Except for occasional trips to Venice, Florence, or Rome for exhibitions of his paintings and etchings, or summer excursions to the village of Grizzana in the Apennine hills above his native city, Morandi scarcely ever left Bologna. He was exceptionally tall, thoughtful, and soft spoken, and notwithstanding his low-key public profile—Morandi agreed to only two published interviews, both toward the end of his life—his paintings came to be known and in demand throughout Europe and North and South America. He was quickly embraced by the intellectual elite of Italy, being taken up by well-known painters, prominent writers and publishers, and distinguished art historians and professors. As early as 1934, in a public address by Roberto Longhi, then Professor of Renaissance Art at the University of Bologna and unofficial cultural czar of Italy, Morandi was recognized as perhaps the greatest living painter in his country. In 1949 he was featured in the seminal exhibition "Twentieth-Century Italian Art" at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, and in 1957 he was awarded the Grand Prize for painting (ahead of Jackson Pollock and Marc Chagall) at the São Paulo Biennale in Brazil. Giorgio Morandi died at his home in Bologna on June 18, 1964.
As a print maker, Morandi is widely recognized as the greatest master of modern times in the traditional technique of copper-plate etching, but neither as a print maker nor as a painter did Morandi ever attract the broad popular attention commanded by his more outspoken or radical contemporaries in France and America. His works are invariably small-scale and contemplative, and despite their apparent uniformity of subject—primarily landscapes and still lifes of commonplace, banal objects—they are exceedingly complex in organization and subtle in execution. Rather than a revolutionary artist, he might be considered the "insiders'" painter par excellence. This exhibition, based largely on works of art created by Morandi for his close friends and for the most discerning collectors who supported him during his lifetime, is the first ever presentation of his complete career to be mounted in the United States.