Giorgio Morandi
Still Life 1946

Artwork details

Giorgio Morandi 1890–1964
Still Life
Natura morta
Date 1946
Medium Oil paint on canvas
Dimensions Support: 375 x 457 mm
frame: 533 x 613 x 65 mm
Acquisition Presented by Studio d'Arte Palma, Rome 1947
Not on display


Still Life is an oil painting on canvas by the Italian painter Giorgio Morandi. It depicts a display of five domestic objects arranged on a flat table surface: a bottle, a jar and three porcelain bowls of various sizes. The objects are arranged in two horizontal rows, with the three smallest objects situated at the front of the composition and the bottle and a taller bowl at the back. In this work, Morandi uses a muted colour palette that ranges from light and medium grey to cream white, beige, pale yellow and mauve. The ball-shaped container in the front row at the lower left corner of the painting has a top section with yellow grooves and a bottom section with white grooves. The cup in the centre of the composition has a red brim and the bowl on the right side has purple grooves. Still Life is inscribed with the artist’s signature at the bottom right of the canvas.

Still Life was made in Bologna in 1946. The canvas was prepared with a white ground layer and an underdrawing made with graphite is visible around the central vase. The oil paint was then applied in thin layers, wet on wet, with lively brushstrokes. The painting has a wooden frame with gilded details. In 1947 a photograph of the painting was sent to Tate that shows an inscription on the reverse of the frame detailing the painting’s title in Italian (‘Natura morta’) and the year it was made (see Alley 1981, p.540).

Morandi kept a supply of vases, bottles and jars in his studio, which he used as models for many of his still life paintings in a variety of arrangements. In a letter dated 7 July 1953 the artist wrote that there were ‘several variants of the present work and the same objects also appear in other pictures’ (quoted in Alley 1981, p.540). The first of the still lifes to feature several of the same objects in a similar arrangement was made in 1936, but the most closely related works date from the period 1945–7, although no two of these are exactly the same (see Alley 1981, p.540).

Morandi was born in Bologna, where he studied between 1907 and 1913. He became familiar with the work of the French impressionist painters Auguste Renoir (1841–1919) and Claude Monet (1840–1926), as well as that of Paul Cézanne (1839–1906), through exhibitions in Venice and Rome. His work was also influenced by the Italian Renaissance painters Giotto (c.1266/7–1337), Piero della Francesca (c.1415–1492) and Paulo Uccello (1397–1475).

Further reading
Lamberto Vitali, Giorgio Morandi: Pittore, Milan 1965, reproduced pl.168.
Lamberto Vitali, Morandi: Catalogo Generale 1913–47, Milan 1977, reproduced no.514.
Ronald Alley, Catalogue of the Tate Gallery’s Collection of Modern Art other than Works by British Artists, London 1981, p.540, reproduced p.540.

Natasha Adamou
May 2016