“Natura Morta”, Giorgio Morandi Circa. 1953
Giorgio Morandi was an Italian painter and printmaker. He was born in Bologna in 1890 and lived there all his life. When his father died the family moved a couple of doors down where Morandi died in 1964. He escaped the summer heat in Grizzana, a town in the Apennines, now renamed Grizzana-Morandi. Otherwise he hardly ever left Bologna. He taught drawing, engraving and etching, always within walking distance of home. The artist would sometimes make day trips to Venice, Milan or Florence to see an exhibition, but only near the end of his life did he venture outside Italy, once to an exhibition in Switzerland, once to Paris.
His studio, also his bedroom, was in the flat he shared with his three sisters (all, like him, unmarried) and their mother. The room is often compared to a monk’s cell: an austere place of solitary contemplation.
How was this painting done?
Morandi has used a muted color palette, subdued subject matter, and quiet simplicity. He has painted familiar objects such as ceramic bowls and vases, bottles, pitchers, jugs and boxes. They are purposely stripped of any identifying marks such as labels. This lends the objects a sense of anonymity. They are objects that could easily come from anyone’s kitchen.
The objects to have a weighty, chunky appearance, minimal amount of shading and highlights and a matte surface appearance.
The artist uses a careful balance of subdued colors and subtle tones, the objects almost appearing flat, due to their lack of tonal range. The paintings enjoy an anonymous, silent quality. ageless quality, superceding time and place.
Morandi works in a painterly style, in which the brushstrokes are visible and become an important part of the composition. He is not concerned with hiding the brushstrokes to create a smooth surface appearance. Instead, he paints in such a way that the quality and handling of the paint have as much contemplative importance as the objects.
Why should we care?
Morandi is best known today for his beautifully contemplative still-life paintings. His imagery would influence numerous artists after him, including the Minimalists, who admired his pared-back aesthetic and emphasis on order, geometry and spacing. Morandi’s fame is worldwide, with examples of his work hanging in every major collection of modern art.
Where can I find more paintings like it?
“Still Life Seven Objects” by British artist Charles Hardaker is another painting is very much influenced by Morandi. The muted tones and anonymous silent quality of the objects are much in keeping with Morandi’s style of working.
“Still Life, New Studio” William Brooker 1974 The table is a notable feature in this quiet contemplative work. In this painting, William Brooker seems to be very infuenced by Morandi’s muted tones. The objects have an ageless yet anonymous quality superseding time and space in typical Morandi style.
Meditate, relax and enjoy
There can be no mistakes in making this painting. Everything ends up as it should be. Take the luxury of “time out” to recreate this fabulous painting in acrylics yourself, here’s how:
You will need
- a small canvas, 30cm x 40cm is a good size
- tubes of primary acrylic colours, blue, red and yellow plus white
- a dark watercolour crayon
- soft nylon paint brushes, (small, medium and a little larger)
- water in an old container
- a rag or disposable cloth
- an hour or two
Tips on the Process
- prime the canvas first, otherwise, just a wash and dry with a towel
- print the photo you want to work from, measure and cut into quarters to make your drawing in a grid
- turn the original photo upside down to make the drawing
- use a dark coloured water colour crayon for your drawing
- correct drawing right-side up from the original
- erase crayon easily with a damp cloth
- it is okay for the watercolour crayon mark to bleed into the painting
- everything is easily painted over with acrylics
- paint in the background first
- The painting will not look great at the initial blocking in stage, stay with it for a pleasant surprise
- try not to use paint directly from the tube; experiment with how to mix colours
- layering colours on top of others using the scumbling technique creates magic
- acrylics dry darker than the mixed colour
The Drawing Process
Turn your photo upside down and draw the space around the drawing first. This is just a framework to place the figure on the page and you can easily correct right-side up with the dampened cloth as I have done below.
Otherwise, you may use my drawing below. I suggest you ask your copy shop to print the PDF below onto a canvas and proceed to make your own unique painting. Otherwise, you can print the copy on to good quality paper, paint the picture and frame it. It’s your painting after all!