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Giorgio Morandi: Late Paintings

Contributions by David Lieber
Published by David Zwirner Books
Distributed by Simon & Schuster

One of the most beloved painters of the twentieth century, Giorgio Morandi created works that continue to exert their mysterious power on viewers worldwide. 

This publication focuses on the period from 1948 to 1964, during which Morandi developed and refined his investigations of serial, reductive, and permutational forms and compositions, a body of work that has had a profound influence on twentieth-century art and painting. Included here are five of the ten iconic “yellow cloth” paintings from 1952, a series featured prominently in the historic 1998 exhibition at the Peggy Guggenheim Collection in Venice, and numerous late paintings by the Italian master. Lavishly reproduced, these immersive plates draw attention to the idiosyncratic perspectival and color-driven decisions that give the work its abstract power. The catalogue is published on the occasion of the 2015 exhibition of Morandi’s paintings from this period at David Zwirner, New York—which, according to The New York Times, represent “lucid perfection, at once cerebral and impassioned.” It marked the first major presentation of the artist’s late work in America since the acclaimed 2008 retrospective at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.

In addition to an essay by Laura Mattioli and a foreword by David Leiber, who organized the exhibition, this catalogue includes a fantastic array of contributions by contemporary artists: John Baldessari, Lawrence Carroll, Vija Celmins, Mark Greenwold, Liu Ye, Wayne Thiebaud, Alexi Worth, and Zeng Fanzhi. They offer their personal responses to Morandi’s work and to the Zwirner exhibition in particular. Working in different media across many disciplines, this diverse list of contributors is a testament to the reach of Morandi’s paintings and their influence on contemporary art.

Giorgio Morandi was born in 1890 in Bologna, Italy, where he lived until his death in 1964. From 1907 to 1913, he was enrolled at the Bologna Accademia di Belle Arti, where he later served as the professor of engraving and etching from 1930 until 1956. By 1920, Morandi established the small-scale depictions of still lifes and landscapes that he would pursue throughout his oeuvre, and that were associated with no other school or style but his own. 

Laura Mattioli is the daughter of the important Italian collector Gianni Mattioli, who in 1949 acquired Pietro Feroldi’s collection that highlighted the relationship between Italian modernists and French Post-Impressionists, and which included works by Giorgio Morandi from the 1910s to the 1940s. With her father, Laura visited Morandi during her childhood and has lived with his paintings practically all her life. She holds a PhD in the history of art, and since 1984 she has managed her father’s collection, for which she has acquired additional works by Morandi. Mattioli has curated several exhibitions on the artist, including Last Morandi (1997–1998), in Verona and Venice; Giorgio Morandi: Late Paintings, 1950–1964 (2004), Lucas Schoormans Gallery, New York; and Giorgio Morandi et l’abstraction du réel (2010), Hotel des Arts, Toulon, France. In 2013, she founded the Center for Italian Modern Art, in New York, where she has presented two exhibitions on Morandi, in 2015–2016 and 2018–2019. 

"Morandi painted a zone of reality that is within reach yet cannot be touched, infusing vision with a delicate frustration of tactility. The result is an ontological mystery, confounding sight with touch and both with wonderment at their mutuality."

– Peter Schjeldahl, The New Yorker

“In his still lifes, the sublime”

– Karen Wilkin, Wall Street Journal

“Rigorous explorations of geometry and light”

– Dorothy Spears, The New York Times

“Morandi’s work becomes an exercise in care, restraint, and skill… The exhibition at David Zwirner shows Morandi at his most mature."

– Sarah E. Fensom, Art & Antiques

“It is easy to remember having been moved, profoundly, by a Morandi still-life, but never quite how. You have to see one again to reenter the mystery...Beauty is [Morandi’s] recurrent consolation and our regular bliss.”

– Staff, The New Yorker

“The recent apotheosis of Giorgio Morandi is a little more surprising… To this growing corpus, we can now add the perspectives of other contemporary artists collected in David Zwirner Books’s Giorgio Morandi: Late Paintings.

– David Carrier, The Brooklyn Rail

“Like the softly repeated murmur of a prayer, there’s something both comforting and conservative in Giorgio Morandi’s career-long affinity for painting small still lifes of bottles, vases and other objects arranged in his studio. The Italian modernist has long been considered an ‘artist’s artist,” and his unassuming canvases have developed something of a cult following.”

– Julian Kreimer, Art in America