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Amedeo Modigliani
Amedeo
 Modigliani
Italia 1884−1920
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Biography and information
 
Amedeo Clemente Modigliani (12 July 1884, Livorno, Tuscany, Italy — 24 January 1920, Paris, France) was an Italian Jewish painter and sculptor who worked mainly in France. He is known for portraits and nudes in a modern style characterized by elongated faces and figures, that were not received well during his lifetime, but later found the acceptance. Amedeo Modigliani spent his youth in Italy, where he studied the art of antiquity and the Renaissance until he moved to Paris in 1906. There he came into contact with the prominent artists such as Pablo Picasso and Constantin Brâncuși.

Modigliani’s œuvre includes paintings and drawings. From 1909 to 1914, however, he devoted himself mainly to sculpture. His main subject was portraits and full figures of humans, both in the pictures and sculptures. During his life, Amedeo Modigliani had little success, but after his death he achieved greater popularity and his artworks achieved high prices. He died at the age of 35 in Paris of tubercular meningitis.

Attributes of the artist`s work: Modigliani upended the tradition of depicting the nude. His portraiture was the unique combination of specificity and generalization. His portraits convey his subjects' personalities, while his trademark stylization and use of recurring motifs — long necks and almond-shaped eyes — lends them uniformity

Famous paintings of the artist: The Jewess (1908), Jacques and Berthe Lipchitz (1916), Portrait of Jeanne Hebuterne (1919)

Early Life

Amedeo Modigliani, or "Dedo" (as mother called Amedeo Modigliani) was the youngest of four children born to Jewish parents, Flaminio and Eugenia, in Livorno, Italy, home to a large Jewish community. Shortly before his birth, the family businesses had fallen onto hard times, forcing the Modiglianis to declare bankruptcy.

Eugenia’s father and sister, Isaac and Laure Garsin, played a significant role in Amedeo’s upbringing. The Garsins were highly educated, introducing Amedeo to literature, poetry, philosophy, and the visual arts at a young age. In 1895, Amedeo contracted the first of several serious illnesses that he battled throughout childhood. While suffering from typhoid, he first told his mother of his wish to be a painter. Although Eugenia preferred an academic education for her son, she later acceded to his wishes, as she recounted in her diary, "On the first of August [1898], he begins drawing lessons, which he has wanted to do for a long time. He thinks he’s already a painter." The following year, Amadeo gave up his regular schooling entirely to study with his drawing teacher, Guglielmo Micheli.

Being in Italy with his mother, Modigliani visited the museums in Naples, Rome, Florence, and Venice, Amedeo Modigliani learned classical Italian painting and sculpture, fueling his enthusiasm for the fine arts. After their return to Livorno, he convinced his mother to allow him to move to Florence, where he studied figure drawing at the Scuola Libera di Nudo. Possibly inspired by his admiration for Michelangelo, he moved to Pietrasanta in 1903 to devote his time to sculpture, but found his strength insufficient for the strenuous and time-consuming stone-carving process. The sculptures Modigliani created in 1909−14, of which twenty-five carvings and one woodcut survived, were highly influential on his work as a painter, helping him arrive at the abstracted and linear vocabulary of his painting.

In Florence, Modigliani became acquainted with Manuel Ortiz de Zarate, an artist who had worked with the Impressionists. Intrigued by Zarate’s descriptions of Paris and the avant-garde, Modigliani decided to pursue his ambitions there, but his mother encouraged him to stay in Florence. Restless for new opportunities, Modigliani moved to Venice and enrolled in the Scuola Libera di Nudo at the Istituto di Belli Arti, which he found overly traditional in its curriculum. Growing increasingly dissatisfied with the art scene in Italy, his mother finally allowed him to move to Paris in 1906.

Transformation

During his early years in Paris, Amedeo Modigliani worked at a furious pace. He was constantly sketching, making as many as a hundred drawings a day. However, many of his works were destroyed by him as inferior, left behind in his frequent changes of address, or given to the girlfriends who did not keep them.

He was first influenced by Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, but around 1907, he became fascinated with the work of Paul Cezanne. Eventually, he developed his own unique style, one that cannot be adequately categorized with other artists.

He met the first serious love of his life, Russian poet Anna Akhmatova, in 1910, when he was 26. But another woman became a principal subject for Modigliani’s art.

In the spring of 1917, the Russian sculptor Chana Orloff introduced him to a beautiful 19-year-old art student named Jeanne Hébuterne, who had posed for Tsuguharu Foujita. Modigliani ended his relationship with the English poet and art critic Beatrice Hastings, and a short time later Hebuterne and Modigliani moved together into a studio on the Rue de la Grande Chaumière. Jeanne began to pose for him and appeared in several of his paintings.

Amedeo Modigliani modernized two of the enduring themes of art history: the portrait and the nude. Characterized by a sense of melancholy, elongated proportions, and mask-like faces influenced by such sources as Constantin Brancusi and African art, Modigliani’s portraits are both specific and highly stylized, each uniquely revealing its sitter’s inner life, at the same time unmistakably "Modiglianized," to use the words of one critic. Modigliani’s nudes scandalized audiences with their depiction of features such as pubic hair and their frank, unadorned sexuality. The subject of three biographical movies, Modigliani’s legacy is inextricably bound up with his tragic and bohemian life: his fragile health, which plagued him since childhood; his perpetual pennilessness; and — most famously — his over-the-top, self-destructive lifestyle, which included sexual debauchery and overuse of drugs and alcohol.

Last works and funeral

Although he continued to paint, Modigliani’s health deteriorated rapidly, and his alcohol-induced blackouts became more frequent.

In 1920, after not hearing from him for several days, a neighbour checked on the family and found Modigliani in bed delirious and holding onto Hébuterne. A doctor was summoned, but little could be done because Modigliani was in the final stage of his disease, tubercular meningitis. He died on January 24, 1920, at the Hôpital de la Charité.

There was an enormous funeral, attended by many from the artistic communities in Montmartre and Montparnasse. When Modigliani died, twenty-one-year-old Hébuterne was eight months pregnant with their second child.

A day later, Hébuterne was taken to her parents' home. There, inconsolable, she threw herself out of a fifth-floor window, a day after Modigliani’s death, killing herself and her unborn child.

The linear form of African sculpture and the depictive humanism of the figurative Renaissance painters marked his work. Working during that fertile period of "isms," Cubism, Dadaism, Surrealism, Futurism, Amedeo Modigliani did not choose to be categorized within any of these prevailing, defining confines. He was unclassifiable, stubbornly insisting on his difference. He was an artist putting down paint on canvas creating the artworks not to shock and outrage, but to say, "This is what I see." More appreciated over the years by the collectors rather than academicians and critics, Amedeo Modigliani was indifferent to staking a claim for himself in the intellectual avant-garde of the art world.

Author: Liliya Lytvyn
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Artworks by the artist
364 artworks total
Amedeo Modigliani. Portrait Of Jeanne Hebuterne
24
Portrait Of Jeanne Hebuterne
1918, 46×29 cm
Amedeo Modigliani. Reclining Nude
38
Reclining Nude
1917, 92×60 cm
Amedeo Modigliani. Gypsy woman with child
7
Gypsy woman with child
1919, 115.9×73 cm
Amedeo Modigliani. Seated woman in a white blouse
2
Seated woman in a white blouse
1919, 100×65 cm
Amedeo Modigliani. Woman with a fan. Portrait Of Chekhov Lunii
7
Woman with a fan. Portrait Of Chekhov Lunii
1919, 100×65 cm
Amedeo Modigliani. Portrait Of Jeanne Hebuterne
5
Portrait Of Jeanne Hebuterne
1919, 54×39 cm
Amedeo Modigliani. Elvira. Portrait of a girl with white collar
8
Elvira. Portrait of a girl with white collar
1918, 92×65 cm
Amedeo Modigliani. Standing Nude (Elvira)
4
Standing Nude (Elvira)
1918, 100×65 cm
Amedeo Modigliani. Boy sitting in the cap
2
Boy sitting in the cap
1918, 100×65 cm
View 364 artworks by the artist