Art 1 Morandi – Due 10/1/12


1. Listen to former Met curator, Thomas Hoving, introduce the Morandi show:

2. Read the review in the NY Times which gives background about the artist, his context, and ideas about the significance of his work.


3. Watch the video of a collection of his works:

4. Now, in your comments, explain which things you think are most important in making him the artist that he was (biography, history, work habits, beliefs) and which things are most important to you as an artist making your own still life.

In your sketchbook, spend an hour drawing objects from home using full tonal shading and (almost) no contours.  Work from a light gestural structural skeleton and then add continuous tone.

For your own interest, you may want to watch the time lapse still life drawings below:

Go to the playlist and choose the sixth from the left with the 3 objects and then watch this drawing take shape from analytic phase to the final blending.

Here is a quick description of analyzing form and looking for formal elements in a still life composition:


39 responses »

  1. Morandi was a very brillant artist. His pictures are more about the texture and paint then the actual object. He likes to put the paint on heavy because then he can mess around with the texture. If he were to put it on thin then every object would be the same. Advice for my still life would probably be add texture but also add dimensions. Morandi doesn’t have every thing on one plane. He has things up close and far away but he doesn’t just have one far away and one up close. He changes it up. Two object will be next to each other but they will be different dimensions.

    • These are nice observations about the importance of space and the relationship of the objects to one another and to the picture plane. This became a life long fascination for him. Can you imagine becoming so involved in something like this?

  2. Morandi strikes me as slightly crazy. To concentrate on painting the same mundain things in the same way for your whole life must have gotten tiring. I think he was mostly influenced by his thought posses and the way he lived his life. In the beginning his paintings were very full of life but as time went on I feel like his paintings got more and more sorrowful and similar. Maybe this reflected his life. I’m not sure about this, but maybe in the beging he was more joyful about his art, fresh out of art school and everything was exciting and new to him. As time went on he lost that joy and isolated himself from the outside world because he felt like he had nothing to give and they had nothing to give in return. The most important thing I learned from Morandi was that even the most ordinary things can be given character and brought to life. Art can express so many emotions.

  3. Morandi lived his life in a pretty unique way. He got his inspiration from everything around him. Even bottles, jars, mugs. He also drew what he believed in. For example the article said that he painted pictures about the fascism around the WWII era. After many years of painted his style changed and became abstract. What I find important when I am drawing still lifes is the subjects in the composition. If the things I’m drawing are interesting it makes me want to work on it.

  4. Morandi was a rather…interesting artist, I might say. He pretty much drew what he believed was right, allowing the world around him to inspire him in his still-lifes. I honestly think that he was greatly influenced also by the way things were developing in his life, because his paintings went from rather lively to laced with more melancholy feelings and almost regret. This was probably because as he grew older, his life began to slow down (just an idea). Another thing I noticed was that Morandi focuses more on the objects and their shapes than what’s around them.

    What I look at when drawing still-lifes is the shape of the object, and the dimension I see when drawing them. I also usually try to draw a composition that has some sort of back-story and makes me more interested to draw it, so other people can interpret that story however they want..

  5. Morandi is a brilliant artist, beside, I think he is a marvelous person. It is really hard and meritorious to concentrate on one thing for the whole life. However, Morandi did. He was motivated by tiny things among life such as bottles, jars,glass… Whatever how simple a thing is. A person can do it better than anyone else after millions of similar work. I believed Morandi understands those objects that he is working with. He spent the whole life having more than one understanding on his art style. Like the article said, “Although Morandi rejected the idea of abstraction in his art, that was the direction it was heading.”
    The most important for me as an artist making my own still life is, I want to feel fun during the art creating. Even though it causes me trouble in making a living. I think it is worthy if I enjoyed.

    • It is really interesting, isn’t it that he rejected the idea of abstraction. But knowing that, I look at it as more of a byproduct that a major intention. His process, focus, and meditative connections to the objects are foremost, aren’t they?

  6. I think Morandi was a magnificent, only because he has that spark of insanity that every good artist needs. Like Frida Kahlo, he adds that creepy aspect to each of his paintings. I dont know if it is intentional but either way that is what intrigues me to want to see more. I think advice for my still life might be to add that creepy aspect of not having a shadow, or have the shadows pointing in odd directions. Just one small thing wrong with it that the critic might notice.

  7. I believe that Morandi wanted to capture snapshots of things that, he thought, had beauty. I think Morandi believed, as most people do, that it was necessary to capture certain things: a child’s first steps or a birthday celebration are common manifestations of this desire. However, instead of capturing things like this Morandi captured everyday, common objects. He captured these things, almost in reverence. This suggests that he saw a beauty in the simple household objects or believed that they could communicate an emotion. I believe that this is why he painted the works that make him the artist he is today.
    Personally, I think that capturing an image’s most important aspects is the best way to celebrate it. As an artist, it’s important for me to make an image look realistic and so people can see it in the same way I do.

    • You comments about Morandi’s “reverence” lead me to appreciate the connections Morandi has with the contemplative 17th C Dutch Baroque still lifes that grew out of the Protestant Reformation. I always saw him as such a formalist but I think you point to a strong connection to those 17th C “reverent” still lifes. The style is of course much different but there is a connection of sensibility.

  8. I agree with Cone, his discovery of the subtle beauty inherent in everything from cups to cathedrals was impressive. I also agree with Cabbages and Fiddle Girl that the fact that he may have been a little insane helped his art, think of Van Gogh, Dali, and Goya,all brilliant artists, and all mild to moderately loopy.
    For my advice for drawing still lifes I agree with TangP, if you aren’t having fun creating art, it won’t be fun for any one to look at. I know from personal experience that if I’m not having fun with something I do much worse at it, and art is no exception.

    • That is so true! As soon as the artist starts to get bored with what they are doing and starts to “fill-in”, there’s no gift for the viewer in that spot. That different mind set is often what allows an artist to think outside of the box. Sometimes though, the mythologizing of an artist makes them appear more “loopy” than they really were.

  9. What makes Morandi exceptional is the fact that he isn’t afraid to learn. He traveled and viewed many of the artists that are considered the best of the best today, and he unabashedly “stole” ideas from them. But he did so in a way that eventually combined them all to be something uniquely /his/. It’s also interesting how one can see the different stages of his artistic development just by walking through the show. It can be seen which artist he was most emulating at each period in his life, and then, by the end, you can see it all come together into the still ilfes he is most known for.
    To me, I think what Morandi did was very important, and I believe that’s the main reason we’re learning about a new artist every week. We get to see what styles there are and the subtle differences between each artist, and make an educated decision on what suits us best.

    • Good point, Niasoy. We live in a time where there are so many possibilities to choose from, in lots of areas, not just art. To look at different artists and study different approaches and techniques gives one a tool box for personal expression. I never tire of looking at different approaches to art making. I’m glad you have both a curiosity and appreciation for the variety.

  10. Morandi’s ability to take ideas from other artists and portray the techniques in his own art made him the artist that he was. Also his ability to stay humble when he was creating his art made him perservere and try new things, while painting for himself and not for others. For me I think it is important to focus more on the object that I am drawing than the drawing itself because it helps me stay in proportion. I also think that it is important to take your time and not rush through drawing a still life

  11. I believe that Morandi’s likeness, and real emotion that he conveyed from his art was spectacular. Very rarely do you see an artist that really loves the cup, that really cakes on the emotion with layers of paint and trying to make every stroke feel as if it is a part of the rest of the strokes, not just part of the work. His ability to focus and use his love for art to improve himself and his art was also admirable and created a long lasting emotion in his artwork. He also doesn’t seem to be afraid of change, he looks forward into oncoming challenges with glee and attempts to keep his values to heart as he goes on looking for ways to make everything better.

  12. I think it’s very interesting how Morandi relentlessly pursued the still life. He learned how to get the objects to express exactly what he wanted–his emotions, his political commentary, etc. The messages his work evoke are glaring, yet the actual composition is quite simple.

    Personally, it’s important to figure out what aspects of an object to accentuate. Through these delicate details, the audience can understand the artist’s intentions.

  13. I like the way Morandi thinks, and how he simply just draws what he sees, all though his art is not simple, not at all in fact. I think that it is interesting how he focuses a lot more on the objects and how they are shaped than the space around them. His pictures are also more about the texture and the paint on the objects, (like it was painted with cream or yogurt).
    I think that some of his art is like Cézanne still lifes with the fruit edited out.
    Some advice for my own still life would be to focus more on the object or objects that I am drawing than to focus on the background or anything else in my drawing. It is also important to take your time, because it affects the whole drawing if you just rush through it.

  14. I like the simplistic style he used. Drawing what he sees, not really going for extra details so it looks more full or intricate or anything else but just letting it be as it is. And yeah, I definitely have to agree with nibuRannA in the way that it at times will look like it’s painted with “cream or yogurt” and the idea that it’s the texture that gives it that extra bit of UNF. He also really had humility with his work, which definitely helped his work progress. There was many times where he could have stopped as his technique was already beautiful, but there was never a time he didn’t leave room for improvement and was always open to taking cues from other artists. I couldn’t live the way he did, though I can admire it, monotonously painting the same mundane objects through his entire life, but he found beauty in them, or at least meaning, that I’m not too sure if I could find myself.
    In terms of advice for myself as an artist, I’d say that always being open to improvement and new ideas along with his relentless PATIENCE(!!!!) could really gain me some ground in my artistic process.

  15. Although Morandi experimented with different forms of art, I respect his dedication to still life paintings. He chose one form of art to focus on and studied different artists and their styles to influence and improve his artwork. Morandi had phases in his artwork and was audacious enough to try different techniques.

    An important aspect of being a beginning artist to experiment with different ideas and forms of art even if they aren’t the most ascetically pleasing. An artist should always be expanding his art vocabulary. I respect Morandi for focussing on one form of art to be associated with, but I think in his 50 year career, he should’ve expanded his art horizons and practiced his gifted artisted ability.

  16. I think Morandi’s travels were the most important thing for the development of his style. At the very least it inspired his early work, which is mostly Cezanne based. But I think that it was also important that he made his work his own by taking what he thought were the best qualities from each of each of them. More specifically, I think that Giotto and Caravaggio were his main inspiration, and that their styles are quite visible in his works. I think one of the most important things we can learn from Morandi is that if you love something, you should do it no matter what. He teaches us this through his persistence in art into his dying days. He would not give up because he loved to paint, and even though he had lost his steady hand and eyesight it fulfilled him to complete a work. I think this is a wonderful mentality to have, because you really should keep on doing something if it is your passion.

  17. Morandi, such a talent and… simple artist… In my opinion, I think the cubes, circles, rectangles and so on are the base of any complicated things. So if you can draw these bases so well, of course you can do other things very well… And in my own experience, I think the simplest things are the most difficult things to draw. And I really admire him, because in his whole life, he loves drawing these cups and so on, so, he draw them, keeping drawing them. Whatever the world style changes, hundreds of, thousands of new popular artists come out, he insist on what he likes and does what makes him happy. This is his attitude that I really love and admire…
    As for me, my little dream is travelling all over the world with a backpack on my back. I will draw what I see and what I feel while travelling. This is the life I want and enjoy. I will do the things that I enjoy and I like, because life is short…

    • Yes, I love looking at artists and how they follow their passion because it always is encouraging. You may want the read “The Art Spirit” by Robert Henri. I think you would enjoy the way he shares ideas about artists and the spirit of their imagination.

  18. I think that living in Italy really influenced his over all style. When I look at his work, what comes to mind is summer in Italy or maybe the south of France. The culture in that part of the world seems to seep into the art that comes from there. His travels were very important because that’s where he encountered much of his inspiration. What was happening in the world was probably significant as well. The sea shells around the time of WWII makes a lot of sense. I think what I can take from this is that you should study your favorite artists and try to combine what you like most about all of them. Also, don’t rush. If you have a little patience it will come out better than it would have other wise.

  19. Giorgio Morandi’s art represents a stripped down minimalist mentality that is very distinctive of the modern art period. Yet, Morandi’s art has a different quality that separates itself from many of his contemporaries. His works, despite being labeled “still lives”, don’t seem static at all. They shimmer with imperfections and blemishes, giving them a surreal quality. I believe Morandi was influenced from his contemporaries and the diverse art he experienced as he grew up.

  20. Morandi seems like an artist who likes to use his own special style with the same objects to create completely different pictures of the same thing. He is able to do this so well because he applies his paint on heavy and than smudges it around to mess with the texture and depth of the objects. He was also very intrigued by tiny objects which shows up in his art a lot. This style truly amazed me and if i was to improve my own art skills I would utilize my traveling experiences because that has given me many ideas and styles i can try.

  21. Morandi gives a great example of how you can make a beautiful piece of artwork out of anything really, even just a pile of junk. I find it very interesting that he takes such simple objects, like a jar for example, and just let’s the beauty flow. Anyone one of us could say “Oh its just a jar, too simple”, yet to truly make that jar be real the observer is a true art which Morandi captured. I knaw that when He’s a brilliant man, a tad crazy, but all the greats are!

  22. Art is not created in a vacum. I think that Morandi’s work was as much influenced by the context of his environment and contemporaries as his own personality. From Cézanne to Carvaggio, Morandi learned from other artists. His early inspirations gave him a tool-box of techniques and ideas from which to create his own works.

    I don’t believe in creating art for it’s own sake. I think art should communicate – an idea, an emotion, an attitude, or even a political agenda. It is a powerful sub-lingual medium. Still life’s can defy interpretation, but I want mine to convey something as Morandi’s do.

  23. Morandi is a very unique artist because he spent so much time focusing on very similar works. I think the simplicity in the place he grew up in influenced Morandi’s work because he was able to see the beauty and complexity in something that appears to be simple. Although many of his works are of a similar content, he makes them all very different and unique. What I would take from Morandi to help me with my still life would be to examine everything closely and find the details in the simplicity.

  24. I think the fact that Morandi focused on very similar works heavily influenced his art by making him find his own style in even something simplistic. Personally I admire him for constantly studying such everyday subjects, because he is able to advertise both their imperfections and their best features even though they are so simple. I think the most important thing I could learn from Morandi is to not try to change the object, but to take it for what it is.

  25. Something that fascinates me with Morandi is his ability to do realistic still lifes and make a name for himself just by painting things other people overlook. His paintings appear to have taken much time and attention to form and detail, which for me, would eventually drive me insane. I am a naturally impressionistic artist, so drawing and painting realistically can be both painful and interesting. I feel that I wouldn’t be able to keep going with still lifes and would eventually resort to portraits and other paintings with action and flashes of color in them. This is not to say Morandi is not a talented artist: he obviously is; I just find it difficult to imagine being trapped in a studio painting simple objects with as much accuracy as possible. Another thing I find interesting is the symbolism you can see in his art the closer you look. The simple objects not only mean what they physically do, but the intensity of still objects remind one of violence and the softer ones remind you of a warm room tucked away on a rainy day. In the patterns of the seashells and the forms of the vases you get the feeling that an accurate drawing was not all Morandi was going for. However, he doesn’t get heavy handed in his message. He lets us interpret what we think the painting means rather than creating a scene with obvious symbolism that anyone can figure out.

  26. Morandi was a very interesting artist and focused on his texture more than his actual picture and that is good because otherwise all of his picture woul be exactly alike. I really like how the object doesn’t matter as much as the texture and how it works with the object itself. When I am doing my own still life I would like to really show how the objects look but have total focus on the texture as well and where they are placed in the picture.

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