Giorgio Morandi is remembered as a solitary figure. Although he was aware of the avant-garde movements of his time and even flirted briefly with Futurism and metaphysical art in the teens and twenties, he refused to ally himself with any artistic group. He lived his entire life in Bologna and focused almost exclusively on landscapes and, most famously, still lifes. He endlessly arranged and rearranged the same objects—bottles, tins, and boxes collected from the shops near his home—in search of new combinations and formal possibilities. His paintings are characterized by their sensitive lighting and subtle palette, reminiscent of the soft ochers, pinks, and browns found in Bologna's architecture and landscape.
Morandi is celebrated for his virtuoso etchings, which number nearly one hundred forty. The technique appealed to him for its intimacy and methodical craftsmanship. Using a small press at home or at the Academy of Fine Arts in Bologna, where he was a professor, he would usually print only a few copies of a given image. Most were not editioned until the late 1930s and 1940s at the Calcografia Nazionale, the repository for Italian prints and printing plates in Rome.
In Large Still Life with Coffeepot, Morandi used the etching needle in his typical fashion to define forms through meticulous layers of hatched and cross-hatched lines. His carefully modulated tonalities coalesce into an architectonic composition that invites careful inspection and meditation. The ethereal lighting creates an atmosphere of restrained emotion and pregnant, almost eerie, stillness.
Morandi's landscapes, which reflect his admiration for Paul Cézanne, depict the area around Grizzana, a nearby village where he spent his holidays. In Hillside in the Morning, sunlight from the left brings the trees into relief and casts the house into shadow in the background. Although a specific moment is depicted, Morandi's simple scene is mysteriously timeless.
Publication excerpt from an essay by Starr Figura, in Deborah Wye, Artists and Prints: Masterworks from The Museum of Modern Art, New York: The Museum of Modern Art, 2004, p. 77.