“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.
Jeanne Hébuterne (1898 – 1920) was a French artist best known as the frequent subject and common-law wife of Modigliani. She took her own life two days after Modigliani died and is now buried beside him. Her epitaph reads:
“Devoted companion to the extreme sacrifice.”
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.
Portrait of Jeanne Hébuterne by Modigliani, 1918 (Private collection)
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 favorite poet was remembered as a ‘diseased genius’ and a ‘loner,’ reflecting Modigliani’s unpredictable moods and status as an Italian Jew in Paris.
- 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
- Name: Amedeo Clemente Modigliani
- Born: 1884 – Livorno, Tuscany, Italy
- Died: 1920 (aged 35) – Paris, France
- Nationality: Italian
- Notable work:
- Nude (The Guggenheim, NY)
- Reclining Nude (The Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY)
- Nude on a Divan (National Gallery of Art, DC)
- Nude on a Blue Cushion (National Gallery of Art, DC)
- Le Grand Nu (Museum of Modern Art, NY)
- Seated Nude (Courtauld Gallery, London)
- Seated Nude (Honolulu Museum of Art, Honolulu)
- Portrait of Dr. Paul Alexandre (Yamazaki Mazak Museum of Art)
- Jeanne Hébuterne
- Adrienne (Woman with Bangs)
MET European Paintings Collection
- “Pygmalion and Galatea” by Jean-Léon
- “Saint Jerome as Scholar” by El Greco
- “Portrait of Juan de Pareja” by Diego Velázquez
- “Camille Monet on a Garden Bench” by Claude Monet
- “View of Toledo” by El Greco
- “The Musicians” by Caravaggio
- “The Death of Socrates” by Jacques-Louis David
- “The Harvesters” by Pieter Bruegel the Elder
- “Young Woman Drawing” by Marie-Denise Villers
- “The Grand Canal, Venice” by J. M. W. Turner
- “The Houses of Parliament (Effect of Fog)” by Claude Monet
- “Madame Cézanne in a Red Dress” by Paul Cézanne
MET Modern and Contemporary Art Collection
- “Reclining Nude” by Amedeo Modigliani
- “Improvisation 27 (Garden of Love II)” by Wassily Kandinsky
- “Jeanne Hébuterne” by Amedeo Modigliani
- “The Card Players” by Paul Cézanne
- “Bathers” by Paul Cézanne
MET Greek and Roman Art Collection
MET Egyptian Art Collection
MET Asian Art Collection
- Luohan – Yixian Glazed Ceramic Sculpture
- Pillow with Landscape Scenes – Zhang Family Workshop
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MET Ancient Near Eastern Art Collection
- Sumerian Standing Male Worshiper
- Head of a Beardless Royal Attendant – Eunuch
- Human-Headed Winged Bull (Lamassu)
MET American Wing Collection
- “Washington Crossing the Delaware” by Emanuel Leutze
- “Portrait of Madame X” by John Singer Sargent
- “Mother and Child” by Mary Cassatt
- “Fur Traders Descending the Missouri” by George Caleb Bingham
- “The Gulf Stream” by Winslow Homer
MET Islamic Art Collection
MET Arts of Africa, Oceania, and the Americas Collection
- Benin Ivory Mask
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- Ceremonial Axe – Papua New Guinea
MET European Sculpture and Decorative Arts Collection
- “Hercules the Archer” by Antoine Bourdelle
- “Orpheus and Eurydice” by Auguste Rodin
- “Perseus with the Head of Medusa” by Antonio Canova
MET Medieval Art Collection
- “The Last Supper” by Ugolino di Nerio
- Plaque with the Journey to Emmaus and Noli Me Tangere
- Doorway from the Church of San Nicolò, San Gemini
MET Drawings and Prints Collection
- Album of Tournaments and Parades in Nuremberg
- “Canvassing for Votes” by William Hogarth
- “Christ and the Woman of Samaria” by Rembrandt
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- 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?
Amedeo Modigliani Quotes
“When I know your soul, I will paint your eyes.”
“What I look for is neither reality nor unreality but the subconscious, the instinctive mystery of the human race.”
“It is your duty in life to save your dream.”
“You are not alive unless you know you are living.”
“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.”
“With one eye you are looking at the outside world, while with the other you are looking within yourself.”
“I want to be a tune swept fiddle string that feels the master melody, and snaps.”
“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.”
“Happiness is an angel with a serious face.”
“The function of art is to struggle against obligation.”
“When I know your soul, I will paint your eyes.”
“To do any work, I must have a living person … I must be able to see him opposite me.”
– Amedeo Modigliani
Photo Credit 1) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons