Giorgio Morandi’s color is not out to please an audience by self-consciously selecting hues in relationships that “look good“. His colors are gleaned from instinctive sensations that he sees in the situation before him in the model and on the canvas in front of him. Easy to say but extremely difficult to do well. Therefore we get to see a profound honesty that represents light, color, and interacting form and interstices. The superficial is entirely absent in Morandi.
One can see in his work what someone once said of him in describing his commitment to that kind of long term focused observation. “He wore out the seat of his pants for 40 years”
Certainly there are those who need mental and physical mobility in seeking their motif in a variety of locations and that works for some. A refreshing inspirational location is a delightful necessity for some painters. But one still has to seek and find the visual relationships that bring that location to life; Also, easier said than done.
But think of what it was like for Morandi to focus with such intensity and perseverance on those crusty bottles and tabletops. That was a life’s work. And think of his need to leave behind his earlier surrealist interests to discover how personally significant his perceptual path would be instead of surrealism.
What is the subject of any painting. That’s where illustration can enter in with it’s tempting, and disastrous consequences that obliterate serious painting.
Painters are not illustrators. Place even a moderately successful painting next to a good illustration and the painting should interest you 10 fold over the skill of the finest illustrator. (That is, if you’re a painter).
So let’s lay aside any thought that Morandi only imitated the superficial appearance of what was in front of him. And let’s lay aside all that language about color, texture, form, space, surface, picture plane, scale, ala prima, etc.
All those can be seen in Morandi’s paintings but they can be seen in any painting. So what?
Cezanne’s explanatory words, “little sensations” are becoming more and more meaningful to me. And I think Cezanne’s phrase can apply toward understanding much of the authenticity in Morandi’s work. There are Morandi landscapes of course, but I think the focused intimacy of his still lifes gets both the painter and his audience right where they ought to be for a particularly intense and intimate understanding.
So in Morandi’s still lifes ……..There is the color issue that is so subtle and true that you like me, might be greatly moved at it’s beauty and integrity. There are no colors that do not support the whole and yet they are so uniquely right in themselves.
And then there is the touch issue that I mentioned in the previous post.
I don’t know what else to call it since the word touch seems so right for what visual poets and lovers do.
Everybody has to put on the paint somehow and great paintings get that right.
The classic French photographer, Henri Cartier-Bresson, took up drawing in his 80’s and spoke of it’s personal superiority to photography that he had spent his life doing. It had to do with the feeling of “really” being in touch with the thing you’re making beyond the click of the camera shutter.
Many painters show the visual, emotional, and intellectual trip they’ve been on through the tracks of the paint. Some are trackless like Ingres and instead rely on building form interactions to carry the passion to themselves and their audience. Ingres’ tonal genius allowed him to produce strokeless surfaces reminiscent of what I mentioned in William Bailey’s still life painting or also Bailey’s figure paintings for that matter.
There is no egocentric bravura in Morandi’s paint (touch; application). The application is just as honestly done as is his delicately nuanced color and shape observations. Therein, we can again feel that we’re being spoken to by someone with rare integrity.
Many paint handling elements can be listed in art school language such as “edges” or impasto, etc. but again, everybody knows that. So it’s really a matter of who is doing what with all the physical and intellectual tools of the painter.
Following the mind and spirit of Morandi through his touch brings one great rewards.