MORANDI's Late Landscapes

Giorgio Morandi, Landscape, 1962, 30 x 35 cm, oil on canvas

Morandi is of course known for his perfectly simple and sensuous still life paintings, which are magnificently represented in the knockout exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum. But I must admit to being a little disappointed that there were so few of the late landscapes in the show. I regard his landscapes as the highest refinement of the impulse initiated by Corot more than a century earlier. I'm not talking about Corot's large silvery mannered studio compositions, but his small plein air oil sketches, mostly done in Italy. They were far ahead of their time, and pointed the way for painting as a direct articulation of shapes and spaces on a plane.

Camille Corot, Le Pont de Narni, 1826, oil on panel

What I think Morandi brought to this idiom was his unique ability to "essentialize" visible reality. Unlike the still lifes in which he was able to set up the composition and light and angle, in the landscape it was about editing what was given -- boiling the highly complex situation of kinetic 3-dimensional experience down to its most essential elements -- and building a painting out of shapes and spaces on a plane. When it comes to direct observational painting, nobody does it quite like Morandi.