There is something very personal and intriguing about a still life.
The subject matter can be unremarkable and ordinary, like a bowl of fruit or a vase of flowers…but set apart from its surroundings, it becomes a celebration of the familiar and humble.
I recently watched Fellini’s “La Dolce Vita,” and had to rewind a whole scene because I was looking at the Giorgio Morandi still life in the background and lost track of what was going on. It turns out they were actually talking about the Morandi, with a description that could apply to many a still life:
“The objects are flooded with a wistful light and yet painted with such a detachment, precision, rigor that makes them almost tangible.”
Giorgio Morandi was one of the most prominent Italian artists of the 20th century. My interest in his work began on a tour of the Villa Necchi Campiglio in Milan, designed in the 1930’s by Piero Portaluppi. I was so drawn to Morandi’s still life, that I made a beeline to it through two other rooms.
His arrangement of the simplest objects, in the most commonplace of settings, using a subtle palette with the occasional splash of color, is truly inspiring to my art director soul.
The home that Morandi shared with his mother and sisters in Bologna was also his studio. He rarely left, and painted the same “cast of characters”…the bottles, boxes, and crockery of daily life…studying them and varying their positions for each new composition. “It takes me weeks to make up my mind which group of bottles will go well with a particular colored tablecloth,” he said, describing the attention to detail that is so evident in his work.
“I am essentially a painter of the kind of still life composition that communicates a sense of tranquility and privacy, moods with I have always valued above all else.”
A kindred spirit.