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Italy 1890 – 1964

Natura morta [Still life] 1956 Place made: Bologna, Emilia-Romagna, Bologna province, Italy
Materials & Technique: paintings, oil on canvas

Primary Insc: signed l.l., oil, "Morandi", not dated
Dimensions: 30.6 h x 40.8 w cm Frame 60.0 h x 70.0 w x 6.0 d cm
Acknowledgement: Purchased 1980
Accession No: NGA 80.3401
Image rights: © Giorgio Morandi. Licensed by SIAE & VISCOPY, Australia
  • Odyssia Gallery, New York;
  • from whom bought by the Australian National Gallery, October 1980

Giorgio Morandi's art stands as a model of constancy and probity. He began a lifetime's investigation into painting by confining his subject-matter in the early 1920s almost exclusively to still-life arrangements of domestic objects. The boxes, bottles, pots, jars and pitchers that he used in his paintings were thoughtfully collected and put aside in his studio for later use. Some containers, like the boxes in the foreground of the Gallery's painting, were covered with paint to neutralise their original use and to stress the objects' forms and create a controlled tonality. In spite of this the objects retain their individuality, never quite becoming generic. Morandi's favourite objects appear again and again in his work. he would start his day by setting up a composition, often taking hours to do so, and then after recording this in a painting, he would make subtle changes to the arrangement so that he could explore each nuance of composition in the next work.

The objects used in Still life 1956 — boxes, a circular lidded tin, a bottle and ceramic pot — are recognisable in many other paintings, and a number share a similar grouping as the Gallery's Still life. The first (Vitali no. 962) was painted in 1955 and depicts the arrangement of three light-coloured boxes (one stepped back) and a bottle and pot, and this composition reappears with minor variations in several works of 1956 (Vitali nos 1006-7 and 1009-13).1

Michael Lloyd & Michael Desmond European and American Paintings and Sculptures 1870-1970 in the Australian National Gallery 1992 p.284.

  1. Lamberto Vitali, Morandi: Catalogo Generale, Milan: Electra Editrice, 1977.

Text © National Gallery of Australia, Canberra