Research: Euan Uglow and Giorgio Morandi – colour palette and simplicity in the purity of form

Updated on 7 March 2017 (Harvard referencing).

4 August 2016. Two artists to revisit in order to study their choice of colour and approach to depicting form. Since I have seen work from both of them before, I though I would do a tiny compare and contrast exercise here.

Giorgio Morandi (1890-1964), world famous Italian 20th century still life painter of a purist kind, remained mostly with a restricted colour palette consisting of earth colours and different shades of grey. For a selection of typical works and analysis of his approach see e.g. Artyfactory (n.d.), where I found an explanation for the curiously pure surfaces of his objects. Apparently it took him weeks of preparatory observation and rearranging the objects for him to feel satisfied with a setup and I can see, and even more than that, feel how the forms communicate. Any small change to setup, form and colour and the message would be totally different. The colour palette and chosen pure forms appear to me to mirror Morandi’s way of life and I am amazed at and envy his relaxed and determined attitude.

Euan Uglow (1932-2000) on the other hand, was mainly a figurative painter, but when comparing his choice of subjects and care of analysis with Morandi’s approach I can see many similarities. One of his still lifes, “Still Life with Delft Jar” (Uglow, 1958) radiates the same careful, contemplative approach. Even some of his figurative paintings have a Morandi-like quality, e.g. in “The Blue Towel” (3), which is visible also in a video presenting some of this paintings (inesvigo, 2011). It is as if Uglow had slowly felt his way around the canvas until he was utterly satisfied with the patterns of communicating areas of colour in every tiny bit of it. The above painting makes me want to put it under a light microscope and see whether the pattern is repeated down to the tiniest observable scale.

In both Morandi’s and Uglow’s work there does not seem to be any random noise, no superfluous statements, just what there is and nothing else. This is probably the consequence of a state of mind in tune with body and environment. I guess that not too many people achieve this permanently, but when they do their works of art may achieve a timeless quality.

References:

Artyfactory (n.d.) Giorgio Morandi – Natura Morta (Still Life) [online]. Artyfactory, n.k. Available at: http://www.artyfactory.com/art_appreciation/still_life/giorgio_morandi.htm [Accessed 4 August 2016]

inesvigo (2011) Euan Uglow [online]. inesvigo, n.k. Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qKYlGvuWdJw [Accessed 4 August 2016]

Uglow, E. (1958) Still Life With Delft Jar [oil on canvas] [online]. Arts Council Collection, London. Available at: http://www.artscouncilcollection.org.uk/artwork/still-life-delft-jar [Accessed 7 March 2017]

Uglow, E. (1982) The Blue Towel [oil on canvas] [online]. Jerwood Foundation, London. Available at: http://www.jerwoodfoundation.org/collection/26/the-blue-towel [Accessed 7 March 2017]

 

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