Giorgio Morandi was born on 20 July 1890, in Bologna. In 1907, he enrolled at the Accademia di Belle Arti, Bologna, where he would study until 1913. Whilst at the Accademia, Morandi would become familiar with the work of Giotto, Masaccio, Paolo Uccello, Piero della Francesca, Renoir and Cézanne through visits to the Venice Biennale and Florence. He would also execute his first etching in 1912. In 1914, Morandi briefly associated with the Italian Futurists, exhibiting with them at the Prima Esposizione Libera Futurista at the Galleria Sprovieri, Rome. During the War, Morandi was called up for service but swiftly discharged on account of illness, which – apart from a brief spurt of creativity in 1916 – limited his ability to paint.
In 1918, Morandia was introduced to the metaphysical work of Giorgio di Chirico and Carlo Carrà. In 1919, Morandi met both Di Chirico and Carrà, and had his first images published in the metaphysical periodical, Valori Plastici, published by Mario Broglio. Morandi’s technique was already developing towards his mature style at this point, though there was linearity of design and a boldness of palette that would fade in the coming decade. Morandi exhibited with the Valori Plastici group in 1921 and 1922, and showed some etchings at the XVI Venice Biennale in 1928. He also exhibited in the Mostra del Novecento exhibitions held in Milan (1926, 1929). In 1930, he was appointed the head of etching at the Bologna Accademia di Belle Arti, a position he would hold until 1956.
By the mid-1920s, Morandi’s painterly style had crystallised into its mature form, characterised by a refined formal sensibility and subtlety of tone – chalky whites, muted greens, umber browns and terracotta highlights are particularly common – that betray the influence of Cézanne and Piero della Francesca. The Natura morta (‘still-life’) was his most consistent subject, though he would also return to landscapes regularly throughout his life, painting en plein air. Morandi regularly exhibited at the Rome Quadriennale (1931, 1935, 1939, 1943, 1955) and Venice Biennale (1928, 1930, 1948 – winning the Grand Prize for Painting), and featured in major surveys of Italian Modernism held at the Museum of Modern Art, New York (1949), Musée National d’Art Moderne, Paris (1950), and Tate Gallery, London (1950), in his lifetime. In 1954, a career retrospective was organised by Vitale Bloch and Lamberto Vitali, which was held at the Gemeentemuseum, the Hague, and the New Burlington Galleries, London. In 1957, he was awarded the Grand Prize for Painting, ahead of Jackson Pollock and Marc Chagall, at the 4th São Paolo Biennial. Morandi died on 18 June 1964, in Bologna.
The Museo Morandi, now housed in the Museo d’Arte Moderna di Bologna (MAMbo), was inaugurated in 1993, and displays a large collection of his work. Morandi’s work can also be found in the following selected international collections: the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), New York; the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; Art Institute of Chicago; National Gallery of Art, Washington D.C.; San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMoMA); the State Hermitage, St. Petersburg; Galleria Comunale d’Arte Moderna, Rome; Galleria Civica d’Arte Moderna e Contemporanea (GAM), Turin; Museo Nacional Thyssen-Bornemisza, Madrid; Musée d’Orsay, Paris; Estorick Collection of Modern Italian Art, London; the Tate Collection, London.
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