History of contemporary art - Giorgio Morandi painter and engraver

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The course can be usefully followed by students of the Corso Ordinario, starting from the first year. Because of its openness to extra-pictorial themes it is also recommended for students who do not intend to pursue a  specific art-historical curriculum at the Scuola Normale Superiore


The course aims at addressing the fifty-year activity (from the 1910s to the early 1960s) of one of the greatest Italian and international artists of the 20th century, Giorgio Morandi (1890-1964). The course will also be an opportunity to discuss the relationship between modern Italian painting and contemporary international art; and to reconsider Italian artistic tradition as it was seen by 20th century artists and as it was mediated by the historiography of the time.

The course will begin by facing the issue of the establishment of an Italian artistic modernity since 1910 through the confrontation with international milieu. It will continue by discussing the main themes of Morandi's activity as they have been established by the art-history literature dedicated to him: relationship with naturalism, impressionism, cubism and metaphysical painting; the artist's self-confinement of his own visual research within the two specific pictorial genres of the landscape and the still life; the reciprocal dependence between painting and engraving; the pictorial work in series.

Educational aims

The main educational goal of the present course is to lead students to address a "painting for painters" such as Morandi's with the tools of the art-historical method. The course also aims to familiarise students with the close interactions between the artistic research, the critical debate and the wider intellectual discussion: this interaction is favourably enabled by the study of Giorgio Morandi's work.

Bibliographical references

The essential bibliographical references are as follows:

1. The general catalogue of the artist's paintings (L. Vitali, Morandi. Catalogo generale, Milano, Electa, 2nd ed. enlarged 1983) and the general catalogue of his engravings (Morandi. Incisioni. Catalogo generale, edited by M. Cordaro, Milan, Electa 1991).

2. The two main monographs: the classic one by F.Arcangeli, Giorgio Morandi, Milan, Edizioni del Milione 1964 (there is a new edition with the passages originally suppressed: F.Arcangeli, Giorgio Morandi, stesura originale inedita, edited by L.Cesari, Turin, Allemandi 2007) and the one by J.Abramowicz, Giorgio Morandi. The art of silence, New Haven and London, Yale University Press 2004).

3. The catalogue of the retrospective exhibition Morandi. 1890-1964: "Nothing is more abstract than reality", edited by M.C. Bandera and R. Miracco, New York, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, catalogue Milan, Skira 2008.

4. A useful introduction can be the Giorgio Morandi entry in the Dizionario Biografico degli Italiani, with a bibliography of the artist up to 2012: https://www.treccani.it/enciclopedia/giorgio-morandi_(Dizionario-Biografico)/.

More specific bibliographical references to the topics addressed in the course will be provided during the lessons.