Morandi – (Sophistication Through Reduction)

Georgio Morandi – Still Life – 25 x 30 cm – oil on canvas

Morandi’s contemplative paintings speak to me and I quite often find myself visiting them for the appreciation of his mastery of the reductive process.

In this Still Life he arranged three items directly in front of each other creating a beautiful arrangement of shapes and lines.  How he integrated the three with the table and background is absolutely gorgeous.

 I love the elegant structure of the shapes, especially the relationship of the top of the spout with the rhythmic movement of the three marks at the right. The horizontal dark line holds them beautifully. (see detail image)   I hope you can feel the relationships.

Two of the marks (above the dark line) and the top of the goblet seem to float, connecting our gaze to that sensitive horizontal shadow in the goblet’s top, and leading us to the oval top of the spout.  We are then gently brought down to the wonderful dark structure.  I mustn’t neglect another sensitive movement, leading our eye down the spout to the bottom edge of the ochre shape on the goblet.  This in turn takes us to that magnificent small curved mark engaging us with the movements above.

The top of the goblet seems to be floating, energizing the painting brilliantly. Reducing the subject matter to an arrangement of shapes supports this consideration masterfully.  The blending or integration of the objects with the background and table is visual poetry at it’s best.

Note how we seem to be both level with the goblet and slightly above it at the same time.  I’m sure this is an homage to Cézanne.

The painting is an exquisite arrangement of shapes and lines revealing a level of sophistication and visual poetry I admire greatly.





Morandi – (Seeking the Prime)

Giorgio Morandi - Still Life - 1920 - 50 x 52 cm - oil on canvas

Giorgio Morandi - Still Life - 1958-oil - 36 x 41 cm - oil on canvas


Morandi’s path is a wonderful study of searching for the essential through restriction of the subject matter.  I admire his discipline and the sophistication of his mature work.

Like most of us, his early work was focused on developing figurative skills.  Now when he began conveying the essence of the subject matter is difficult to say and of course it happens over time and study.  He was well educated in the wonderful considerations in modern painting, and connected to seeking the prime in things.

Here we have two still life paintings thirty eight years apart, which clearly shows his evolution through reduction.  Morandi’s focus in his 1920 Still Life (which has a Cezanne influence) was depiction.  This is perfectly fine and time honoured.  He has allowed some distortion but representing the objects is the intent.  We take in the objects, we see but we don’t feel their relationships.

In his 1958 painting his considerations are very different.  We  instantly connect or “feel” the relationships of the objects.  Why is that?  I’m not going to impose my analysis on you.  I would rather you feel the painting, as I do, and permit yourself time to embrace Morandi’s sensitivity.  What is important to know is that Morandi’s understood “primitivism” which is the connection to our prime.

A very sophisticated consideration and I find It truly wonderful how the connection deepens each time I visit his mature paintings. .








Influences (Cezanne on Morandi)

Georgio Morandi - Landscape - 1940 - 48 x 53 cm - 19 x 21 in - oil on canvas

This is a great example of how a notable painter permits himself to absorb the considerations of other artists without loosing his own unique approach.   We can feel the influence of Cezanne but this painting is a Morandi.

The sense of volume and space is wonderful.   He achieves this with shapes and values, as well as colour.  I will focus on shapes and integration.

The painting is held together by a large shape in the central area, which integrates the buildings and the foliage beautifully.  (It may help if you blur your vision slightly.)

The roof line of the building at the left defines the top of the shape.  It’s right edge runs down through the other building, continuing to it’s bottom edge, which parallels the top of the shape.  Remember the shapes are not meant to be obvious.

Morandi also has provided a wonderful spatial plane at the bottom right.  This is created by the vertical trunk of a tree and a dark horizontal line to the right.  Can you see the rectangle?  The rectangle not only provides structure but is also a plane which seems to come forth.

I also would like to point out the two parallel branches on the tree.  They parallel the roof line above.  Superb parallel rhythm and structure!

Morandi understood Cezanne.


Influences (Giorgio Morandi)

Don Farrell - Soaking Pan - 1999 - 25 x 30 cm - 10 x 12 in - egg tempera

I had the pleasure of seeing a retrospective of Morandi’s work in London a few years ago and he has stayed with me ever since. In particular, I was impressed with his spatial considerations and how he expressed them in his still lifes.

I was thinking of my response to his considerations when I made the above painting of my soaking pan. My goal was to create a harmonious spacial feeling through the arrangement of rectangles.

Now, using an influence doesn’t make things easy. For example, with Soaking Pan, which has a rectangular motif, I had difficulty keeping the painting from feeling static.

I had started by supporting the soaking pan with a similar shape above it on the wall. This supporting shape then takes the eye to the small dark square at the top, ensuring the viewer takes in all of the painting. The colour value of this square then takes your eye to the sketch pad before returning you to the front of the soaking pan. (The three sketches also harmonize with the front of the soaking pan, but are more supportive.)

So many rectangles leave the image static if left completely on their own. There is the wonderful little angle on the table which appeared accidentally and stayed, but this was still straight, and I needed more.

To refine and resolve this composition, I added the white line at the bottom right which takes you across the front of the table to the right edge of the soaking pan. This provides an integrating movement for the painting, which works well, but the painting still felt unresolved.

Soaking Pan – detail

I fussed and fumbled for a few days, and then one morning, I scratched an oval in the soaking pan and got that special feeling you get when you know you’ve finally succeeded. Even though the mark is subtle, it was enough, and the composition was complete.

Giorgio Morandi - Still Life - 1959 - 30 x 35 cm - 12 x 14 in - oil on canvas