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“Jeanne Hébuterne” by Amedeo Modigliani

"Jeanne Hébuterne" by Amedeo Modigliani

“Jeanne Hebuterne” by Amedeo Modigliani

“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. In this painting, Jeanne’s elongated face and highly simplified features derived from Modigliani’s study and fascination with Egyptian, African and Oceanic sculpture.

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.

Amedeo Modigliani

Amedeo Modigliani 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.

Things to Know: 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.
  • Simplified, elongated oval faces, gracefully sculptured noses, and simplified mouths highlight the artist’s interest in African masks.
  • 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 favourite 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 is famous for his portraits and nudes. Why did he not painted his most frequent portrait subject, Jeanne in the nude?
  • What influence did African sculpture have on Modigliani’s portraits, with their elongated faces and highly simplified features?
  • What do her eyes say?

Seated Nude

  • Title:              Jeanne Hébuterne
  • Artist:            Amedeo Modigliani
  • Created:        1919
  • Medium:        Oil on canvas
  • Dimensions: 36 x 28 3/4 in. (91.4 x 73 cm)
  • Museum:      Metropolitan Museum of Art – MET

Amedeo Modigliani

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Amedeo Modigliani Quotes

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

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

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“Rome is not outside me, but inside me.. Her feverish sweetness, her tragic countryside, her own beauty and harmony, all these are mine, for my thought and my work.”

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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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“I want to be a tune swept fiddle string that feels the master melody, and snaps.”

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“What I am seeking is not the real and not the unreal but rather the unconscious, the mystery of the instinctive in the human race.”

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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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“To do any work, I must have a living person … I must be able to see him opposite me.”
– Amedeo Modigliani

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Photo Credit 1) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

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