Our own Morgan Meis in The Smart Set:
By the time Giorgio Morandi discovered himself as an artist he had reduced his universe to a handful of things. These were primarily bottles, tins, jugs, vases, and a few bowls. In a pinch, Morandi was perfectly happy with two tins and a vase. He would arrange the three things and then paint them. Generally he stuck to a muted palate: grays and beige, an overall preponderance of brown. Even when Morandi used brighter colors it still seemed like brown dressing up in drag for the occasion. His paintings do the opposite of pop. They simmer. They wait for you to come to them.
If Morandi painted his two tins and vase in an arrangement one day, he would move the vase a few inches and paint them anew the next. These minute transformations amazed Morandi. He didn’t need anything more. A slight change in the light, a subtle shift in direction, and his world of three things was forever fresh and new.
By all rights, these ought to be the most boring paintings in history. Nothing happens in them. His works aren’t quite abstract and so do not have the formal freedom to impress us with proportion and color as Mondrian’s can, or a wildness in pure movement and action as Pollock’s can. They aren’t full-bodied realism, either, and so cannot show us the richness of fruits and flowers and so forth of traditional still lifes, nor the striking still life deconstructions of someone like Cezanne. Morandi is content to do as close to nothing as a painter can do. He sits at his easel, year after year, shifts his two tins and the one damn vase, and then paints the scene in his own special vision of muted brownness.
Yet, these are extraordinarily beautiful and moving paintings.