This exhibition comprised twelve oil paintings from four private collections in Florence, together with ten drawings and eighteen etchings from the Estorick Collection, ranging in date from 1912 to 1959. The core of the exhibition comprised nine paintings from the collection of Roberto Longhi (1890-1970), the most important Italian art historian and critic of his time, as well as a life-long friend of the artist and collector of his work. Other works included a 1935 landscape given by Longhi to his doctor, Professor Noferi, a 1943 landscape that was a wedding present Longhi gave to the critic Piero Bigongiari, and a 1936 landscape from the Alberto Della Ragione collection.
Giorgio Morandi (1890-1964) is one of Italy’s best known twentieth century artists. He was born in Bologna and lived there throughout his life, except for a number of short stays in Grizzana, a mountain village between Bologna and Florence. He enrolled at the Accademia di Belle Arti in 1907 and frequently visited Florence to study the Renaissance masters; he also travelled to Rome, where he was impressed by the work of Monet and Cezanne, and Venice. Although Morandi knew and exhibited with many of the more avant-garde artists of his time, he did not ally himself with any group but pursued his own ideas of natural truth.
Morandi’s sensitive use of light imbued the shapes of the mundane objects that he repeatedly painted with a mysterious monumentality, conveying a sense of timelessness. He is probably best known for these intense still lifes, but he also painted landscapes of equally disquieting mystery, and achieved similarly remarkable results with his delicate drawings and etchings.
The exhibition provided a fascinating opportunity to analyse the artistic choices of Italian critics and collectors who were Morandi’s contemporaries, and to compare them with those made by Eric Estorick, a passionate collector as well as a dealer in twentieth century Italian art.