Italian painter and printmaker Giorgio Morandi was born in Bologna in 1890. His career in the arts began at age 17 when he first attended the Academy of Fine Arts in Bologna. He proved to be an excellent student, and taught himself the practice of etching by studying the works of Rembrandt. Morandi was influenced by the Italian Old Masters Giotto, Masaccio, and Piero Della Francesca as well as his rough contemporaries Andre Derain and Pablo Picasso. Morandi is best known for his simple still life paintings of vases, bottles, and boxes in muted, subtle tones, on which he focused almost exclusively throughout his career. He also painted landscapes and a small handful of self-portraits.
Early on, Morandi experimented with the Italian art movements Futurism and Pittura Metafisica. He served briefly in the Italian army in 1915, but was discharged after a mental breakdown. At this point, Giorgio Morandi’s focus shifted from more complex, crowded compositions to simpler, flatter forms, reflecting the influence of Paul Cézanne. His economy of means and focus on simple arrangements made Morandi a forerunner of minimalism.
Morandi taught drawing and printmaking in elementary schools and then at the Bologna Academy of Fine Arts. Unlike many artists, Morandi did not travel to seek out new inspirations within the art world, though he did read extensively and maintained relationships with Bolognese artists and intellectuals. Morandi was known to be reclusive; he lived his entire life in the apartment in which he grew up. These limited experiences likely contributed to Morandi’s unique style of simple still life compositions on blank backgrounds. In spite of their apparent simplicity, Morandi’s paintings have been described as visually unsettled and psychologically fraught.
Morandi’s prolific career produced approximately 1350 oil paintings and well over 100 etchings. Two of his paintings were selected in 2009 by President Barack Obama to become a part of the White House’s collection. Though the fanfare of exhibitions was not of particular interest to Morandi, there have been several over the past decade, including one at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York in 2008.