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“Reclining Nude” by Amedeo Modigliani

Amedeo Modigliani Reclining Nude The Metropolitan Museum of Art

“Reclining Nude” by Amedeo Modigliani

“Reclining Nude” by Amedeo Modigliani is one of the dozens of nudes created by Modigliani in a modern style characterised 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, where female nudity is couched in mythology or allegory, this series of paintings are without any such context, highlighting the painting’s eroticism.

The 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 own collection or with an eye to their commercial potential.

The nude, which 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. Eventually, Modigliani’s nudes reaffirm and reinvigorate the nude as a subject of modernist art.

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 own unpredictable moods and status as an Italian Jew in Paris.

Reflections

  • Do the elongated face and simplified features echo Egyptian, African and Oceanic sculpture?
  • Modigliani is famous for his portraits and nudes. Why did he not painted his most frequent portrait subject, his partner Jeanne in the nude?
  • Why did African sculpture influence Modigliani?

Explore Modigliani

Explore Modern and Contemporary Art at the Metropolitan Museum of Art – MET

Reclining Nude

  • Title:                Reclining Nude
  • Artist:              Amedeo Modigliani
  • Created:         1917
  • Medium:         Oil on canvas
  • Dimensions:   23 7/8 x 36 1/2 in. (60.6 x 92.7 cm)
  • Museum:        Metropolitan Museum of Art – MET

Amedeo Modigliani

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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) Amedeo Modigliani [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

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