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Three Great Twentieth-Century Outsiders: Morandi, de Pisis and Pirandello

This section brings together the works of three great Italian painters who eschewed groups and movements, working in conditions that it is fair to define as solitary. The creative journeys we refer to are those undertaken by Giorgio Morandi, Filippo de Pisis and Fausto Pirandello, three artists who had a profound influence on developments in Italian painting, on which they impressed an indelible mark of excellence. Although, in the end, they had only a tenuous relationship with broader developments: not because they never pursued one, but because they ultimately found their own truth, in isolated thought and action, steeped only in solitude.
True, for a brief period Morandi was “close” to Futurism, veined with the Cubist principles of Ardengo Soffici, then to the metaphysical experiments (of Carlo Carrà, in particular), before finally moving towards the “Plastic Values” of Mario Broglio. There was also once a De Pisis, at a time when he was active alongside the other italiens de Paris, who was seduced by the metaphysical disorientation of De Chirico, whom the “marchesino pittore” (as De Pisis styled himself) had previously befriended in his native Ferrara. And there was once a Pirandello, who for a brief moment was close to Mafai and Roman Tonalism. But none of them ultimately found their own language in those communal experiences, nor their greatest maturity.
Each artist would pay a price for his isolation: Pirandello’s was the long-time lack of any support save for a handful of critics whose influence did not extend beyond regional borders; De Pisis’s was the derision of many observers; Morandi’s, the various accusations levelled at different times from the most remote fronts, including of a lack of courage and social engagement.
Then there were the countless misunderstandings along the way: from the neo-Impressionism attributed to De Pisis - as if this were an irredeemable legacy from a period already past to Pirandello’s alleged “insularity”. In the end they had no followers, only pale imitators. Not even Morandi, to whom his most impassioned interpreter, Francesco Arcangeli, wanted to ascrbe familiarity with a new “naturalism”: erroneously, of course.

Fabrizio D'Amico