Graziano Manni

“With a testimony”

He was one of the witnesses and one of the most silent protagonists of an entire season of Emilian painting, the thirty years that began in the last post-war period that around him saw chiarist and informal, figurative and surrealist leaders excel, but he tried not to get trapped in a scheme or a label. Walter Morselli (1912 – 1976) has always looked at the pictorial fashions of this period, which often lasted only the space of a morning, because they almost always came from abroad and did not have time to put down roots: above all they had little to do in a country that art had always practiced creating it from its depths around two “poles” that, since the time of Giotto, they have always chased each other with alternating prevalences, classicism and realism.To determine the duration of these fashions was in fact an exasperated collecting, often poorly cultured and consumerist type.Someone can well object that for collecting art has always represented a status symbol, a product to be exhibited, a license for new rich or for non-disinterested patrons.But the history of Emilian art has included artists who, while lending themselves to satisfying lords and powerful of all kinds, were equally able to leave a more lasting trace of bronze. Cosimo Tura, Ercole Roberti and Guido Mazzoni are among them. The collecting of the lords could not turn them into repeaters of trends and ideas of others.But someone has made some difference. In Bologna, Francesco Arcangeli recalled a singular remark made to him by his friend Giorgio Morandi: “Masaccio did not go around the courts, Piero della Francesca did”. A judgment that said a lot in the mouth of a painter who in life did not have great attention.In reality, the patronage of the princes was not so different from the “protections” granted by cardinals and bankers and by the commissions that the latter assigned to artists and writers.So the real fact that has always made the difference was the talent of the individual painter or sculptor and the quality of his works: that is, what has in fact characterized him and that has distinguished in the culture of his time the autonomy of expression.
Morselli certainly cannot be counted among the artists who have gone in search of commissions, and this meanwhile guarantees his spontaneity since when he worked he thought of painting only for himself.
Let’s go back to the two “poles” that we have mentioned above, and we will see how the Modenese painter we are talking about fits effortlessly into this tradition of our figurative culture in a period in which the realistic datum prevails over the classical ideal, precisely in the wake of the work carried out by his other great compatriot and contemporary who stigmatized the courtesanism of Piero della Francesca, that is Giorgio Morandi.
For Morselli, at the beginning, the search for truth becomes a categorical imperative, to be cultivated before anything else.
Technique represents only the way of expressing “his” reality.
Then gradually this data softens and his painting is inserted in the sixties in one of the great figurative strands of contemporary art, that of impressionism to which the painter will remain faithful throughout his life without hesitation.
The faithful replica of a renoir painting, with a couple of young people dancing, remained for months and months on his easel seemingly meaningless to the few who then frequented his studio.
The results of this meditation, however, will be seen when Walter Morselli will resume the brush to devote himself above all to the landscape and genre scenes.
To impress him in addition to Renoir and his followers will be above all the still lifes of Giorgio Morandi, in those years known only by a part of collecting, certainly not by the general public.
That rigor in the description, the essentiality of the sign, will accompany all the subsequent production of Morselli who has always painted in solitude and for a few who knew him.
He had begun as a self-taught having attended the “Venturi” art institute in Modena before the war.He did not like to show off and did not try to access the art market in any way, since he ignored its accesses, perhaps thinking that the opposite should have happened: it had to be if ever the market to approach him, which today is very difficult if you do not know how to take advantage of the opportunities and find compromises with those who represent them that offers the rutilante world of advertising and in general of the media.Morselli had spent his youthful years, four, in Yugoslavia, in a dirty war from which his country had emerged defeated and torn apart.Like the previous one, it left a legacy of mourning and misery, and a sense of emptiness and prostration in those who had taken part in it and who had survived. An experience that had certainly touched him deeply and that had left important traces in a young artist, who had however returned as said with many disappointments and few hopes.In an extroverted painter this could have constituted a heritage to be put to good use: not for Morselli who closed himself in his own world.After these years, in fact, his inspiration stopped, even if the memories of that bloody and useless conflict came back to mind from time to time.These memories will re-emerge on the palette only years later, when the painter will resume the brushes, and we see some examples in the three engraved plates that appear in this catalog and that constitute a mature rethinking.This in practice represents an anthology of his work that goes substantially from 1960 until the death of the painter in 1976. So a grumpy painter, not interested in the art market, who was rarely seen.Two or three personal in the whole career.A folder of drawings, engraved by him in 1958 when he resided in Pavullo on the Modena Apennines, was exhumed by him and printed only in 1969 in very few copies, about seventy.He spoke little and reluctantly, introverted like his own art, his face lit up only when he answered questions about his painting in his no-frills studio where we met him in via Carlo Zucchi in Modena. When Morselli rarely showed himself, many wondered where those paintings full of shadows, with linked colors and not seen yes, those still lifes full of desperate loneliness came from.F photographed sudden electrocutions, illuminations of a moment.The organizers indicated the name and address of the painter.Only someone then found a way to come to Modena to meet the painter and to take some paintings, of those to which Morselli did not care much, because for others there was no way. Yet his city in those can not be said not to be receptive, both towards the artists of Modena and those who came from outside to show their works. There were seven or eight galleries operating practically at full speed in the sixties and seventies, and they certainly did not neglect the art of their fellow citizens.The <Saletta> of the lawyer Allegretti at the National had recently closed its doors after a very intense season in which it had made itself known throughout the country and that had anticipated the times showing some of the names that would break through in the following years.And many Modenese artists such as Pelloni, Semprebon, Mario Venturelli and Pompeo Vecchiati reaped the fruits of what they had sown in previous years. This means that Morselli’s absconding was solely due to his solitary spirit.In fact, he worked practically only for himself, without caring in the least about the judgment of others, certainly not for a form of presumption or haughtiness, but rather for the innate resignation of character to modesty and the awareness that success belonged and should belong to those who know how to perform.Very few artists have been found so combined, and we do not remember one who managed to have a name resonant natural life during.Walter Morselli really deserves at least posthumous compensation from his fellow citizens.He had a very fast stroke with chalk as it happens to good designers and with the brush he stretched without repentance.In this way impressions were born on the fatigue of man in shady landscapes, almost darkened by the lens that framed the lucid resignation of those who gave up fighting.And then the quick flashes on objects and creatures caught in a moment immediately passed: the silent solitude of a man who observes on tiptoe, but with lucid attention to moods, always shines through.His production, quantitatively very scarce, reflects a continuous research from the point of view of form that is the mirror of a measured pessimism but with no way out: a way to overcome one’s loneliness and to feel alive.