Davide Ferri is an art critic and independent curator. A lecturer in Aesthetics at Rimini’s Fine Arts Academy (LABA) and in the Ergonomics of Exhibitions at Bologna’s Fine Arts Academy, in 2012 he curated the Art Section of the theatre festival “Ipercorpo”. At Arte Fiera 2019, Ferri will be curating the first edition of the ‘Courtesy Emilia-Romagna’ exhibition entitled Solo figura e sfondo.
I’d like to tell a little story about Giorgio Morandi and the Verzocchi Collection, a marvellous group of 20th-century paintings hanging in the rooms of Palazzo Romagnoli in my home town of Forlì – a collection that has sadly never received the recognition it deserves.
Several things have always struck me: the rapidity with which the collection was put together – between 1948 in 1949 -, its exhaustive yet succinct overview of a vibrant, highly complex period of Italian art, but especially, the fact that every item deals with a specific theme: work.
Milanese businessmen and collector, Giuseppe Verzocchi, approached the best Italian painters of his day asking them to produce – for a fee of 100,000 lire – a 70 x 90 cm painting on the subject of work. The upshot was the story of an Italy that is no more - a country where fishermen, peasants, seamstresses, lacemakers, rice-workers and blacksmiths lived in a rural, semi-urbanised world undergoing transformation.
Of the famous painters approached like De Pisis, Casorati, Guttuso, and De Chirico, Giorgio Morandi was the only one to refuse Verzocchi’s offer. Probably not feeling able to take on a specific theme, he politely declined from the start. This did not deter Verzocchi, however, who desperately wanted Morandi in his collection and tried again to convince him, first with a ‘surprise’ visit to his studio, and then with a second and a third letter in which he offered to double the fee, something he had not done with any of the other painters. In a fourth letter, Verzocchi even suggested a possible subject: “a still life with a brick and a trowel”.
Rereading the correspondence between Morandi and Verzocchi is a source of great amusement for me. Morandi’s last response reads as follows: “I am in receipt of your express-delivery letter. For the reasons I have already given on several occasions, I am unable to provide the painting you require. I ask you, who have so much love and respect for work, to please leave me in peace to do mine. My apologies. Very best regards.”
The Verzocchi Collection. Palazzo Romagnoli, via Albicini 12, Forlì