The Italian Almanac

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still life by Giorgio Morandi

Giorgio Morandi

Dozens of paintings and drawings by Bologna`s most famous modern artist, Giorgio Morandi, returned to the Italian city this week as part of a major retrospective devoted to his life and work. Entitled simply `Giorgio Morandi: 1890-1964`, the exhibition offers visitors a comprehensive overview of the artist`s career. More than 100 watercolours, drawings and etchings explore the development of Morandi`s art, from his early metaphysical works to his late still lifes. Arrayed in chronological order, the exhibit seeks to spotlight the recurrent motifs of his work: still lifes and landscapes, along with the very occasional self-portrait. The exhibit, described as the most important Morandi retrospective ever, arrived in Bologna following a hugely successful run in New York`s Metropolitan Museum of Modern Art, where it drew enthusiastic responses from leading critics in the New York Times and The New Yorker.

Born in Bologna in 1890, Morandi lived there quietly with his three sisters, venturing further afield only occasionally for exhibitions of his work. He fought in the First World War but returned home after a breakdown and following this episode his focus grew ever more narrow. Early experiments with the cubist, futurist and metaphysical movements eventually gave way to the deceptively simple still lifes that are his trademark today. He repeatedly returned to the same themes in these works, subtly altering composition and tone to create entirely different pieces. Bottles, boxes, bowls, fruit and vases on a simple table appear in a seemingly endless variety of combinations, alight with cool, ephemeral colours.

Unlike other artists of his time he steered clear of politics and was one of only a few to avoid the taint of Fascism. Morandi won early popularity and enjoyed great critical acclaim throughout his career but his work was sometimes overlooked in favour of flashier counterparts. His quiet, contemplative still lifes and landscapes are today hailed for their complexity and subtlety.

The exhibition runs in Bologna`s Museum of Modern Art until April 13.