The paintings of Giorgio Morandi, highly distilled visions of a private world, elicit only two responses: extreme enthusiasm or indifference. They demand a great deal of the viewer, but for enthusiasts—and I count myself among them—Morandi’s reticent, modest still lifes and landscapes are immensely rewarding. For anyone who pays attention, the microcosm of his tabletop world becomes vast, the space between objects immense, pregnant, and expressive; the austere gives way to the seductive. Those impervious to Morandi’s excellences say they find him boring. It’s significant, I believe, that many of his most passionate fans are fellow-artists; for once, the phrase “a painter’s painter” is apt, so much so that I’m sometimes tempted to use a response to Morandi as a partial measure, among artists and non-artists alike, of the ability to see or, at least, the ability to perceive issues fundamental to painting. I...


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