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Morandi's Legacy: Influences on British Art

Preview by Lizzie Guilfoyle

A NEW exhibition entitled Morandi’s Legacy: Influences on British Art, will be on view at the Estorick Collection of Modern Italian Art until June 18, 2006.

This groundbreaking exhibition explores Morandi’s influence on British artists by juxtaposing a number of his paintings, drawings and etchings with works by well-known figures such as Patrick Caulfield, Paul Coldwell, Tony Cragg, Michael Craig-Martin, William Scott and Victor Winstanley.

A particularly striking example is Morandi’s 1944 still life pencil drawing with Rachel Whiteread’s 1998 cast aluminium piece Untitled (Twenty-Four Switches).

Giorgio Morandi (1890 – 1964) is one of the most admired Italian painters of the 20th century, best known for his contemplative still life paintings of familiar objects such as vases, bottles, jugs and boxes, painted in subtle combinations of colour using a narrow range of tones.

Morandi lived in Bologna all his life and mainly worked in a tiny room containing a bed, writing desk, drawing table and bookcase.
He never visited Britain and yet the popularity of his work here has grown steadily since the 1950s when his intimate still life paintings were exhibited – for the first time in this country – at the Tate Gallery.

While Morandi’s work belongs to the traditional genres of still life and landscape painting and is characterised by the domestic and unassuming nature of its subject matter, it frequently borders on abstraction and figuration.

Together with his emphasis on formal values, it has been an inspiration to artists such as Ben Nicholson who admitted: “I always paint my still lifes with Morandi in mind.”

The objects in Morandi’s paintings are often spoken of in anthropomorphic terms, his compositions being seen as ‘group portraits’ or compared to stills from theatrical performances.

This idea is explored in the Theatre of Mistakes’ Homage to Morandi of 1980, a performance piece taking the form of a series of vignettes and tableaux in which actors gradually take the place of the minimal stage props, becoming wardrobes, chairs and suitcases.

A recording of this performance will be shown in the exhibition alongside a still life of 1955 in which two bottles – one large, one small – seem to evoke the theme of mother and child.

The exhibition will also include important works on loan from public and private collections in Britain and Europe, including several from Italian collections such as the Museo Morandi in Bologna and the Accademia Carrara in Bergamo.

Tickets: £3.50, £2.50 concessions, free for under 16s

For further information call 020 7704 9522 or visit the website.