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Joy of Museums

Museums, Art Galleries and Historical Sites

Amedeo Modigliani

Amedeo Modigliani

Amedeo Modigliani

Amedeo Modigliani (1884 – 1920) was an Italian painter and sculptor who worked mainly in France and is known for portraits and nudes.  Modigliani moved to Paris in 1906, where he came into contact with prominent artists such as Pablo Picasso. From 1909 to 1914, he devoted himself mainly to sculpture in which the linear form of African sculpture and the figurative Renaissance painters informed his work.

His main subject was portraits and full figures of humans, both in the images and in sculptures. Later he painted the human figure almost exclusively and created many reclining female nudes. During his life, Amedeo Modigliani had little success and died aged 35 in Paris.

A Tour of Modigliani

  • Nude (The Guggenheim, NY)
    • “Nude” by Amedeo Modigliani is one of the dozens of nudes created by Modigliani in a modern style characterized by elongation of faces and figures, that echo precursors such as Titian, Goya, and Velázquez. However, Modigliani’s figures differ significantly in the level of raw sensuality they transmit. Unlike depictions of female nudes from the Renaissance to the nineteenth century, in which female nudity is couched in mythology or allegory, this series of paintings are without any such context, highlighting the painting’s eroticism. Museum: The Guggenheim
  • Reclining Nude (The Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY)
    • “Reclining Nude” by Amedeo Modigliani is one of several dozen nudes that Modigliani painted between 1916 and 1919 constitute many of his best-known works. Modigliani’s art dealer commissioned this series of nudes and lent Modigliani the use of his apartment, supplied models, painting materials, and paid him for his work. The paintings from this arrangement were different from his earlier depictions of friends and lovers in that they were funded by Zborowski, his art dealer, either for his collection or with an eye to their commercial potential. Museum: Metropolitan Museum of Art – MET
  • Nude on a Divan (National Gallery of Art, DC)
    • “Nude on a Divan” by Amedeo Modigliani depicts an anonymous model, is one of a series of nude artworks that caused a scandal when they were first exhibited at the Modigliani’s only solo show in Paris in 1917. A crowd formed outside the gallery window, where one of the nudes was openly on display and police demanded the immediate closure of the exhibition. Ultimately, Modigliani’s nudes reaffirm and reinvigorate the nude as a subject of modernist art. Museum: National Gallery of Art
  • Nude on a Blue Cushion  (National Gallery of Art, DC)
    • “Nude on a Blue Cushion” was created by  Amedeo Modigliani who was an Italian painter and sculptor who worked mainly in France and is known for portraits and nudes. From 1909 to 1914, he devoted himself mainly to sculpture in which the linear form of African sculpture and the figurative Renaissance painters informed his work. His main subject was portraits and full figures of humans, both in the images and in sculptures. His nickname, Modi, rhymes with the French word “maudit,” meaning “accursed,” a name acquired because of his lifestyle.
  • Le Grand Nu (Museum of Modern Art, NY)
    • “Seated Nude” by Amedeo Modigliani is one of the dozens of nudes created by Modigliani in this painting, the woman’s elongated face and highly simplified features derive Modigliani’s study of Egyptian, African and Oceanic sculpture. Modigliani loved poetry and recite Dante and other poets from memory. His favorite poet was remembered as a ‘diseased genius’ and a ‘loner,’ reflecting Modigliani’s unpredictable moods and status as an Italian Jew in Paris. Museum: Museum of Modern Art, NYC
  • Seated Nude (Courtauld Gallery, London)
    • “Seated Nude” was created by Amedeo Modigliani who applied his paint with short stabbing actions, manipulating it while wet so that the marks of his brush are visible, as are the scratched lines made with the end of his brush to highlight the model’s hair. Modigliani’s explicit depiction of pubic hair in his nudes, a taboo in Salon paintings of the period, was highly controversial and led to the police closing his exhibition in 1917 on the grounds of indecency. Museum: Courtauld Gallery
  • Seated Nude (Honolulu Museum of Art, Honolulu)
    • “Seated Nude” by Amedeo Modigliani depicts an anonymous model, is one of a series of nude artworks that caused a scandal when they were first exhibited at the Modigliani’s only solo show in Paris in 1917. A crowd formed outside the gallery window, where one of the nudes was openly on display and police demanded the immediate closure of the exhibition. Ultimately, Modigliani’s nudes reaffirm and reinvigorate the nude as a subject of modernist art. Museum: Honolulu Museum of Art
  • Portrait of Dr. Paul Alexandre (Yamazaki Mazak Museum of Art)
    • This “Portrait of Dr. Paul Alexandre” by Amedeo Modigliani is one of several paintings of Dr. Alexandre created by Modigliani in a modern style characterized by elongation of faces and figures, that echo precursors such as Titian, Goya, and Velázquez. Dr. Paul Alexandre was only three years older than Modigliani and was one of his close patrons and friends. From 1907 to 1914, the two saw each other regularly, and Alexandre bought many of his paintings and acquired many of his drawings. Many of these drawings, over four hundred, have only recently, in the early 1990s, been made public, by Alexandre’s descendants. Museum: Yamazaki Mazak Museum of Art
  • Jeanne Hébuterne
    • “Jeanne Hebuterne” by Amedeo Modigliani depicts the artist’s partner who was also his most frequent portrait subject. Her white chemise suggests modesty while hiding her pregnancy. Jeanne (1898–1920) was introduced to Modigliani in 1917 when they began an affair in which they both fell deeply in love. She moved in with him, despite strong objection from her parents. Modigliani depicted Jeanne in more than twenty works but never in the nude. Previously most of his female portraits were in the nude. When Modigliani died from tuberculosis in 1920, Jeanne committed suicide the following day. Museum: Metropolitan Museum of Art – MET
  • Adrienne (Woman with Bangs)
    • Adrienne (Woman with Bangs) by Amedeo Modigliani is similar to Modigliani’s other iconic and stylized portraits. Modigliani used portraiture to explore both his psychology and that of his subjects, who were typically fellow artists, friends, or lovers. Modigliani drew inspiration from the art of so-called “primitive” cultures; his work often resembling African or Pre-Columbian sculpture. Adrienne’s neck is elongated as in may other Modigliani portraits again echoing his appreciation of “primitive” sculptures. Museum: National Gallery of Art

Amedeo Modigliani

About Amedeo Modigliani?

  • Modigliani painted the human figure almost exclusively and created at least 26 reclining female nudes.
  • His nickname, Modi, rhymes with the French word “maudit,” meaning “accursed,” a name acquired because of his lifestyle.
  • Modigliani died of tuberculosis and complications due to substance abuse and hard living.
  • Jeanne Hébuterne, pregnant with Modigliani’s second child, committed suicide the day after Modigliani’s death, which added to Modigliani’s legacy.
  • Modigliani applied his paint with short stabbing actions, manipulating it while wet so that the marks of his brush are visible, as are the scratched lines made with the end of his brush to highlight the model’s hair.
  • Modigliani’s explicit depiction of pubic hair in his nudes, a taboo in Salon paintings of the period, was highly controversial and led to the police closing his exhibition in 1917 on the grounds of indecency.
  • Modigliani loved poetry and recite Dante and other poets from memory. His favorite poet was remembered as a ‘diseased genius’ and a ‘loner,’ reflecting Modigliani’s unpredictable moods and status as an Italian Jew in Paris.

Reflections

  • Modigliani stated that “When I know your soul, I will paint your eyes.” Can we see the soul in some of his portraits?
  • “It is your duty in life to save your dream.” – Amedeo Modigliani

A Tour of Artists and their Art

Amedeo Modigliani Quotes

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“Happiness is an angel with a serious face.”

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“The function of art is to struggle against obligation.”

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“When I know your soul, I will paint your eyes.”

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“What I look for is neither reality nor unreality but the subconscious, the instinctive mystery of the human race.”

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“You are not alive unless you know you are living.”

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“With one eye, you are looking at the outside world, while with the other you are looking within yourself.”

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“It is your duty in life to save your dream.”
– Amedeo Modigliani

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Photo Credit 1) Amedeo Modigliani [Public domain]

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