Working from his studio in Bologna, a place he rarely left for long, Morandi used the same simple elements, including bottles, boxes, and the view from his window, staging a seemingly endless array of variations. His paintings appear to transcend time and place, an effect he achieved by removing labels from his bottles, faces from his clocks, and people from his landscapes. In fact, many of Morandi's works can be read as arrangements of pure form. This is particularly the case for those produced after 1945, the principal focus of this exhibition. The subtle variations of these late works demonstrate Morandi's capacity for discovering immense complexity within the self-imposed limitations of his practice.
Giorgio Morandi was born in Bologna on 20 July 1890. After his father died, the family moved to an old house at via Fondazza 36. Morandi lived here for the rest of his life, with his mother and his three sisters. He worked and slept in a single room, surrounded by the simple, dust-laden objects he used in his paintings. Every summer, the family went to Grizzana, in the Apennines.
From 1907-13 Morandi studied at the Accademia di Belle Arti in Bologna and travelled around Italy to study Renaissance art. He took part in a group exhibition with the Futurists, but the association was short-lived. When Italy entered the First World War, Morandi enlisted but suffered a breakdown and was discharged.
He taught drawing in elementary schools from 1916-29. During this period he was briefly associated with Metaphysical Painting, a movement typified by the enigmatic still lifes of Giorgio de Chirico. After Mussolini came to power, Morandi also exhibited with the semi-official Novecento group. However, his closest ties were with the rustic Strapaese movement, which advocated a return to local cultural traditions. In 1930 Morandi became Professor of Etching at the Accademia di Belle Arti, and his works began to be shown abroad.
Morandi emerged to international acclaim after the Second World War. He received the first prize for painting at the 1948 Venice Biennale, rapidly becoming one of the most respected Italian painters. However, he appeared to shrug off the attention, commenting 'I don't ask for anything except for a bit of peace which is indispensable for me to work.'
In 1956 Morandi travelled outside Italy for the first time. After retiring from the Accademia in the same year, he achieved a new concentration in his work. He won the Grand Prize at the São Paulo Biennale in 1957. The esteem in which Morandi was held in Italy is reflected in Federico Fellini's film La Dolce Vita (1960), in which his paintings are featured as the epitome of cultural sophistication. By this time, however, Morandi had withdrawn to work at his studio at Grizzana. He died in Bologna on 18 June 1964.