Friday, January 18, 2013

The Bland Art of Giorgio Morandi

It's just me. There is plenty of art out there that I don't appreciate simply because something in my background and personality created a blind spot where it comes to subtle things. For instance, slow movements in symphonies bore me. So does 99 percent of the music Claude Debussy wrote. And slow-paced novels; I'll set them aside if nothing much is happening after the first 50 or 60 pages, regardless of what claims are made regarding their excellence.

As for painting, an example is the work of Giorgio Morandi (1890-1964). In theory, I ought to like him because he resisted some modernist desiderata. But ... well, take a look:

I'm sorry, but I just can't grasp what is so good about Morandi's paintings in spite of the fact that he has been the subject of increasing praise in recent years. Worse, if someone tried to explain why it is good, I still wouldn't understand.

When it comes to still lifes (not my favorite genre), I much prefer something like this one by David Leffel.


dearieme said...

You're lucky Debussy only bores you; he leaves me sunk in gloom. I don't care for Morandi's cold stuff either.

Anonymous said...

I don't see much in his works either, but apparently many people see things differently.


Anonymous said...

Agreed. Morandi = boring.

Why, said...

And yet...the review of Morandi at the Met a couple of December's ago was the most exciting show I've seen since Monet in Boston. We tripped across it, as we were there for the Creche, and so was ripe for surprise. I knew nothing of him. But the repetitions of his still lifes reverberated between formalism and impressionism and the modern, such by the end of the hall I knew I was seeing something new. A road stop on the way to the radically abstract. Monet, I think, said "I paint what is between me and the object." I think Cezanne picked that up. Morandi who had both in mind, stayed with that thought. He saw the vase and the boxes in as many different ways as Cezanne saw shape and Monet saw light. Same object, many views.

Stephen Henderson said...

I am an art professor and I paint still-lifes regularly.I also teach painting, drawing and watercolor in which the students learn from creating stil-lifes. I can understand why most people who are not artists think still-lifes are boring and tend to like other types of art that are either based on human activity or experimentation.
Still-lifes are very different. Painting still-lifes is like watching mold grow in a science lab. One has to look for nuance, subtle variations, and be be contemplative in your technique.
Certainly Morandi created in this manner and that is why many people find him boring. But he is also quite painterly in his technique, He does not hide the painters touch. He was ridged (often using a grid under his works) yet lose in paint application. If you are not a painter he comes across as boring however he he does not create photorealistic work- pretty postcards- AKA academic paintings. He was true to a modern esthetic that was personal, individual and often excluded the viewer in the experience of the act of painting. Perhaps that is why he is a "hero", for lack of a better term, to me and his work inspires me even though my still-lifes are experimental and brash.

Anonymous said...

I have been an art professor for 30 years. I try to teach beginning and the untrained artist to appreciate great art. I cannot believe your naive lack of sensitivity, sophistication or understanding of what art is. I am shocked that you cannot see the transcendent beauty of Morandi's work. His work exudes an unearthly zen quality and beauty, perhaps only seen by sensitive artistic souls that will take the time with his work and try to understand, truly understand painting. I would suggest you spend some time looking at the color nuances, brushstrokes and amazing compositions.

Take time with the work, perhaps you will find something extraordinary to inspire you...they are like poems.

But you have a right to your opinion, sadly. So, people don't listen! Check Morandi out for yourself. When you say boring, I think of young teenagers with numbed senses that have to play video games or see an over the top action adventure film. Sorry, just had to comment.

Donald Pittenger said...

Anonymous -- It's all a matter of taste, for which the Romans could find no accounting.

I don't happen to have much tolerance for subtlety in literature, music and art. And although I'm quite capable of writing poetry, I avoid reading it. I prefer power, boldness and action.

I have many other beliefs that cultured folks surely consider inferior. But as that great philosopher Popeye the Sailor remarked, "I yam what I yam."

Anonymous said...

Morandi bores me to tears. Its so dull and nothing happens. Things just sit there. I want to make noise just to add some energy