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Press release

Modern Master Giorgio Morandi Featured in Retrospective Exhibition at Metropolitan Museum

Exhibition Dates: September 16 – December 14, 2008
Exhibition Location: Robert Lehman Wing
Press Preview: Monday, September 15, 10 a.m. - noon

"Nothing is more abstract than reality."
-Giorgio Morandi, 1955

A landmark presentation of paintings, watercolors, and etchings by the seminal 20th-century master Giorgio Morandi will be on view at The Metropolitan Museum of Art this fall. The first complete survey dedicated to this acclaimed Italian artist in more than a quarter century and the first ever in this country, Giorgio Morandi, 1890-1964 comprises some 110 works that document the entire course of his career and all phases of his oeuvre. The exhibition features Morandi's iconic still lifes as well as his rare self-portraits and landscapes, nearly all of which are brought together for the first time ever from great collections formed in collaboration with the artist himself – those of scholars and critics who were close to him and of the privileged Italian collectors for whom he reserved his best work.

The exhibition is made possible by Jane and Robert Carroll.

Additional support is provided by Isabella del Frate Rayburn and Maurice Kanbar.

The exhibition was organized by The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, and MAMbo–Museo d'Arte Moderna di Bologna.

It is supported by an indemnity from the Federal Council on the Arts and the Humanities.

Exhibition Overview
The exhibition, which is arranged thematically as well as chronologically, includes some of Morandi's earliest pictorial experiments, his metaphysical paintings of the post-World War I years, the classical still lifes and landscapes that he produced as a mature artist, and the nearly monochromatic, dissolved images of his last years. Shown together, Morandi's paintings, watercolors, and etchings reveal his singular genius in seeking to evoke the poetry and monumentality in familiar objects and settings, attempting, in his own words, "to touch the depth, the essence of things."

The early part of Morandi's career is the most difficult to reconstruct, as he destroyed much of his work from this period. Nonetheless, the quiet eloquence that came to typify his mature style is already evident in some of his earliest extant paintings, as will be demonstrated by a number of important loans from Italian museums. The undulating lines and muted tones in a still life from 1916 suggest the influence of Giotto (Collezione Gianni Mattioli on loan to Collezione Peggy Guggenheim, Venice). The simple geometry and brighter hues of a still life from 1920 reveal Morandi's debt to Piero della Francesca (Pinacoteca di Brera, Milan). Morandi's brief involvement with the pittura metafisica movement is represented by, among other works, a still life from 1918, in which such unrelated objects as a pipe, a sculpted head (milliner's prop?), a bottle, and a box are brought together for their interesting shapes rather than for any symbolic meaning (Fondazione Magnani-Rocca, Mamiano di Traversetolo). Two rare attempts to show the human figure – Morandi's self portraits – are particularly fascinating. The artist paints himself in exactly the same way that he would a still life – without emotion or psychological insight (Uffizi, Florence; Fondazione Magnani-Rocca). One of the most astonishing works in the exhibition – a still life of 1942 – appears to show only the bottom half of a grouping of objects. When the art historian and theoretician Carlo Ludovico Ragghianti commented that the upper half of Morandi's original work was weak, the artist cut away the top, framed the lower half, and gave the unusual composition to Ragghianti (Private Collection). Also on view will be several series – reunited specifically for the exhibition – in which the same composition is reworked multiple times with slight variations in the point of view; the placement or color of a single object within the composition; or the intensity of light and contrast (Museo Morandi, Bologna). The exhibition will culminate with examples of Morandi's later, so-called "dissolved" works. A watercolor of 1963, for example, at first appears to be comprised of flat zones of color and abstract shapes (Fondazione Magnani-Rocca). Upon prolonged viewing, however, the real objects – in this case, a vase and two pots – reveal themselves.

Biography of the Artist
Giorgio Morandi was born in Bologna in 1890, and entered the Accademia di Belle Arti in that city in 1907. His early works show the influence of Paul Cézanne, but he also experimented briefly with Cubism, Futurism, and the pittura metafisica (metaphysical painting) associated with Giorgio de Chirico. By the early 1920s, Morandi's unique style – focusing on subtle gradations of hue and tone among a small group of objects arranged and re-arranged in compositions that vary slightly from one to the next – began to evolve. Through his signature repetition of a small number of simple motifs and economy of color and value, Morandi paved the way for minimalism.

In addition to artistic output, Morandi was an educator who taught drawing in the elementary schools around Bologna from 1914 until 1929 and etching at the Accademia di Belle Arti in his own city from 1930 to 1956. He showed his work in the Novecento italiano exhibitions of 1926 and 1929, and was awarded first prize for painting at the 1948 Venice Biennale, and grand prize in the 1957 São Paolo Biennale. The Italian filmmaker Federico Fellini paid tribute to Morandi by featuring one of his paintings in his emblematic masterpiece La Dolce vita (1960).

Morandi's famous reclusiveness – he granted only one interview for publication during his lifetime and created few paintings other than those for his friends and long-time supporters – together with his choice of subject matter have led to his marginalization within the framework of modern art. Giorgio Morandi, 1890 – 1964 will introduce a new audience to his remarkable achievement and will seek to re-establish his rightful place within the international history of 20th-century culture.

Catalogue and Related Programs
The exhibition will be accompanied by a fully illustrated catalogue, published by Skira. Edited by Maria Cristina Bandera and Renato Miracco, the book will include essays by Janet Abramowicz, former senior lecturer, Department of Fine Arts, Harvard University, and former assistant to Giorgio Morandi; Flavio Fergonzi, professor of contemporary art history, University of Udine; Maria Mimita Lamberti, professor of contemporary art history, University of Turin; Neville Rowley, fellow at the French Academy, Rome; and Lorenza Selleri, curator, Museo Morandi. Also included will be an appreciation of the artist by the Italian author Umberto Eco. The publication will be available in the Museum's book shops.

A variety of educational programs will be offered in conjunction with the exhibition for visitors of all ages. A Sunday at the Met lecture program on September 21 will feature a series of talks including "Giorgio Morandi: Always the Same, Always Different" by Karen Wilkin, independent scholar, curator, and critic; "Morandi and Abstraction" by Renato Miracco, art historian, critic, and director of the Italian Cultural Institute of New York; and "The Drama of Perception: Looking at Morandi" by Siri Hustvedt, author and critic. Gallery talks and family orientation programs will also be offered.

An audio tour, part of the Museum's Audio Guide program, will be available for rental ($7, $6 for members, $5 for children under 12).

The Audio Guide program is sponsored by Bloomberg.

The exhibition will be featured on the website of the Metropolitan Museum (

The exhibition is organized by Maria Cristina Bandera, Director, Fondazione Roberto Longhi, Florence, and Renato Miracco, Director, the Italian Cultural Institute, New York. The presentation at the Metropolitan is supervised by Laurence Kanter, Lionel Goldfrank III Curator of Early European Art at the Yale University Art Gallery and consultant, Robert Lehman Collection, assisted by Neville Rowley and Lesley Schorpp. Exhibition design is by Michael Batista, Senior Exhibition Designer; graphics are by Sue Koch, Senior Graphic Designer; and lighting is by Clint Ross Coller and Richard Lichte, Senior Lighting Designers, all of the Museum's Design Department.

After its presentation at the Metropolitan Museum, the exhibition will be shown at MAMbo–Museo d'Arte Moderna di Bologna.

# # #

November 19, 2008


Sunday, September 21
The Grace Rainey Rogers Auditorium

These talks explore the works of Giorgio Morandi, one of the greatest 20th-century masters of still-life and landscape painting in the tradition of Chardin and Cézanne.


Giorgio Morandi: Always the Same, Always Different
Karen Wilkin, independent scholar, curator, and critic

Morandi and Abstraction
Renato Miracco, art historian, critic, and director, Italian Cultural Institute of New York

The Drama of Perception: Looking at Morandi
Siri Hustvedt, author and critic

This Sunday at the Met program is made possible by the Italian Cultural Institute.


Meet at exhibition entrance, Robert Lehman Wing, court level.

Thursday, September 18, 11:00. Neville Rowley
Friday, September 19, 7:00. Neville Rowley
Tuesday, September 30, 11:00. Renato Miracco
Friday, October 10, 11:00. Renato Miracco
Saturday, October 25, 3:00. Renato Miracco
Tuesday, November 4, 11:00. Renato Miracco
Thursday, November 20, 11:00. Renato Miracco
Saturday, November 29, 7:00. Renato Miracco
Friday, December 5, 11:00. Renato Miracco (FM assistive listening devices available)
Friday, December 12, 11:00. Renato Miracco


Laurence Kanter, Lionel Goldfrank III Curator of Early European Art at Yale University Art Gallery and co-organizer of this exhibition, along with artist William Bailey and Janet Abramowicz, who was Morandi's teaching assistant and friend in Bologna, give their personal responses to Morandi's work and life. Together they explore the nuances of these seemingly simple works.

The Audio Guide for this exhibition is available for daily rental: $7.00 for the general public; $6.00 for Museum Members; $6.00 for groups of 14 or fewer; $5.00 for children under 12; $4.00 for groups of 15 or more.


Family Orientations—Giorgio Morandi, 1890–1964
These one-hour slide introductions to the special exhibition are designed for young visitors and their adult companions.
Wednesday, September 17, 11:30–12:30, 1:00–2:00, 2:30–3:30
Friday, September 19, 11:30–12:30, 1:00–2:00, 2:30–3:30
Wednesday, September 24, 11:30–12:30, 1:00–2:00, 2:30–3:30
North Classroom, Ruth and Harold D. Uris Center for Education


The Museum is committed to serving all audiences. Please call us about services, including Sign Language–interpreted programs, Verbal Imaging Tours, the Touch Collection, and other programs. Voice: (212) 879-5500, ext. 3561; TTY: (212) 570-3828


The Nolen Library has information about the Museum's collection, special exhibitions, and a Teacher Resource Center with a circulating collection for educators. There is also a Children's Reading Room, a specially designed space for families to read together from books in the library's collection. For further information please call (212) 570-3788.


For further information about our programs, visit the Museum's website at

Giorgio Morandi, 1890–1964
The exhibition is made possible by Jane and Robert Carroll.

Additional support is provided by Isabella del Frate Rayburn and Maurice Kanbar.

The exhibition was organized by The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York,
and MAMbo-Museo d'Arte Moderna di Bologna.

It is supported by an indemnity from the Federal Council on the Arts and the Humanities.

The Audio Guide is sponsored by Bloomberg.

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