Amedeo Modigliani (Italian: Amedeo Clemente Modigliani; July 12, 1884, Livorno - January 24, 1920, Paris) was an Italian painter and sculptor who was not recognized during his lifetime, but now his works regularly amaze people all around the world.
Features of the artist Amedeo Modigliani: a masterly combination of line and volume; “sculptural” bodies and faces; nudes combining sensuality, eroticism and some detachment; flat faces; the eyes of the models painted over, without pupils; two-dimensional images; human subjects’ elongated heads, long necks.
Trying to somehow classify the work of the artist Amedeo Modigliani, experts attributed his works to expressionism. But, in all fairness, that statement was pretty close to being false. Modigliani was ... Modigliani. His paintings were extremely sculptural; it seemed as if he wanted to tell us that he failed to become a sculptor. And his lifestyle was too shocking even for those who had seen the Montparnasse district...
The Curse of Modigliani
Modi (from fr. Maudit - damned) – that’s what he was called. It seemed that the curse really was there. Amadeo Modigliani even stood out against the background of the bohemian lifestyle that French artists led at the beginning of the century. He was “too much”: too much of a beggar, even for his fellow-brothers who were eating bread and drinking absinthe, too much of a drinker, even for those who were far from being sober, too scandalous and violent even for the violators of the rules and values, too dissolute - even for the artists painting prostitutes!
Modigliani craved for success, which he received only after his death. Afterwards, his paintings were breaking all records at auctions and still are. But at that time, the refined, restless and completely clueless about how life worked, artist ruined his own life and carried away with him to the grave the one who loved him very much. The tragic fate of Modigliani leaves a bitter aftertaste.
The family of the artist Amedeo Modigliani
Amedeo Modigliani was the fourth, most beautiful and most beloved child of Flaminio Modigliani and Eugenie Garsin. A prosperous Jewish family lived in the Italian town of Livorno near Tuscany. Truth be told, the family had ceased to be prosperous by the time of the artist’s birth: when Eugenie was lying in bed suffering from horrible contractions, officials came to seize the property of the bankrupt Flaminio. All the most valuable things were hastily piled onto a woman’s bed, inviolable by Italian law. The world met the future artist not in a very friendly manner.
The boy grew fragile and sickly. His mother thought the world of him. So did his father... The artist’s father was weak, and could not pull himself together to get down to business. Eugenie was the one who put the children on their feet - yes, in those days, when it was very difficult for a woman to make money, Eugenie Garsin did it. She opened a private school, which soon became very popular. Until the end of his life, Modigliani spoke with great respect about his mother. And he almost never mentioned his father. The role of the main man in his childhood passed onto his maternal grandfather. He instilled the love of art in the boy.
Little Amedeo had pleurisy, then - typhoid fever. According to legend, in feverish delirium, he endlessly talked about the paintings seen in museums and kept saying that he wanted to draw. However, according to other sources, he started drawing even earlier, not in such dramatic circumstances. Anyway, having left school at the age of fourteen, he went to study at the art studio of Guglielmo Miqueli.
Tuberculosis first made itself known when Amadeo was 16 years old. To improve his health, his mother took the boy to the south for the winter. Rome, Naples, Capri - Modigliani made sketches, painted and courted girls. When returned, Modigliani went to Florence, where he entered the Free School of Nude Studies, from there - to the Institute of Fine Arts in Venice, following his friend Oscar Ghiglia. And it seemed that Modigliani first tried drugs exactly in Venice.
Biography of the artist: Modigliani in Paris
All his life he yearned for his native Italy, he was going to return there one day and start a new life. And he returned a couple of times, but he could not stay: Paris beckoned again and again. Modigliani first arrived in Paris in 1906. At first, he lived in an expensive hotel and visited museums. He studied painting at the Academy of Colarossi. And at the same time he got acquainted with the art elite. Soon, he moved out of an expensive hotel into a cheap apartment and ... he went all out. Modigliani and Maurice Utrillo were, perhaps, the most scandalous alcoholics of Montparnasse.
At first, he drank to overcome his shyness. Later - to brighten up his disappointment. He had many acquaintances, but hardly anyone could be called his friend. Many of those with whom they wandered around cheap lodging houses became rich and famous. Modigliani remained isolated. The leaders of the two groups were Matisse and Picasso. Modigliani did not follow any of them. He had his own way, but which one? He did not really know for sure, and no one knew. Maybe it was true that the elegant, handsome man, obsessed with cleanliness, was “cursed”? He painted – people passed around in silence, not noticing any of his artworks. He passionately longed for recognition. He was absent. Afterwards, he drank because he did not know otherwise.
In 1909, having met the sculptor Constantin Brancusi, Modigliani became interested in sculpture. He was devoted to it for about five years. Those were very difficult years of his life. Classes in sculpture required more investment than painting. Besides, he should have been healthier, but he was exhausted and sick because he used to lead a dissolute lifestyle. But that hobby significantly influenced Modigliani’s painting and allowed him to develop his own style. His paintings were created, primarily, under the gaze of the sculptor, and only then - the artist. Hence there appeared special tangibility, sculptural bodies, flat faces, long noses, curved necks. He seemed to sculpt with a brush. Modigliani painted portraits of many famous contemporaries: Picasso, Soutine, Lipchitz and others.
Often he had to pay with his work for food and drinks, and the innkeepers believed that they fed him for nothing, because who needed those strange drawings and paintings ... He did not achieve success during his life, but there were collectors who felt that he was creating something special. Among his patrons were Paul Alexander, Paul Guillaume, and Leopold Zborowski. Zborowski even managed to organize an exhibition of Modigliani in the gallery of Berthe Weill in December of 1917. It lasted about two hours, after which the police demanded to remove paintings and close the exhibition because of its obscenity.
Women in Modigliani’s life
Women were crazy about him. Models with great pleasure slid off the podium for posing in the artist’s bed. In the Russian-speaking space, the surname Modigliani was closely connected with Anna Akhmatova. For the first time they met in Paris in the famous “Café de la Rotonde” in May of 1910. Akhmatova and Gumilyov arrived on a honeymoon. At the insistence of Gumilyov, the newlyweds left Paris swiftly ... But the next year, Akhmatova returned alone, and she and Modigliani spent two months in regular meetings.
Modigliani’s first long-lasting and very dramatic relationship was a relationship with Beatrice Hastings. The clever poetess Beatrice turned out to be very similar to her obstinate lover. Often they were seen dancing naked in Montparnasse. Beatrice was distinguished by irrepressible sexual temperament. Their relationship was similar to the military, their sizzling passion united them, and it also repelled them from each other. According to numerous testimonies, they scandalized ugly, and there was a place for assault on a daily basis. Amedeo was madly jealous, and Beatrice gave a lot of reasons for him feeling that way. They met in 1914, and at the end of 1915, Beatrice simply fled. But the meeting with the main woman of his life was yet to come.
Amedeo Modigliani and Jeanne Hebuterne
Modigliani was especially famous for his beautiful nudes. At the same time, he painted about 20 portraits of Jeanne Hebuterne and never once depicted her naked (1, 2, 3). They met in February 1917. He was 33 years old, she was 19. Jeanne was an artist, and a very good one. She attended school at the Academy of Colarossi.
Contemporaries described Jeanne as a plain, modest, quiet girl. Quiet, but not timid, she had strength and perseverance within her. How did Jeanne, his main love, the mother of his child, who followed him to the grave, differ from other women in Modigliani’s life? Perhaps, the answer was that she unconditionally loved him for who he was. She did not dream to change him, but clearly saw what he was like, and she stayed by his side.
The girl’s parents were absolutely against Modigliani. Contrary to the hopes of others, relationship with Jeanne did not change him. He was still drinking, taking drugs, always broke - even when his patron Leopold Zborowski managed to sell something, Modigliani immediately invited one of his friends and drank a fee. In addition, there were great doubts about his loyalty to Jeanne and there was no doubt about the rough treatment - the testimonies of contemporaries coincide in that. But despite that, there was tenderness in their relationship, which he had not previously shown to anyone else. Often they simply wandered or sat on a bench or in a café very close to each other, hugging, as if trying to dissolve in their love and to not ever return to the cruel world.
When Jeanne got pregnant, Modigliani recognized the baby. They had a daughter. And when he found out about the second pregnancy of his girlfriend, he even intended to marry her. But he could not do it. On January 24, 1920, at the hospital for the poor, Modigliani died of tuberculosis meningitis. Jeanne Hebuterne, who was 9 months pregnant, did not cry in the ward. But having arrived to her parents, by the morning of the next day, she jumped out of a window from the 6th floor. Their daughter Giovanna was subsequently adopted by Modigliani’s sister.
There was a legend that Jeanne once said to Zborowski: “Modi must die. He is a genius and an angel. When he dies, everyone will understand.” And it happened that way. On the day of Modigliani’s funeral, it seemed that the whole Montparnasse came out to carry him on his last journey. Just a few days before his death, they mocked him and kicked him out from everywhere. And then the prices of his paintings were growing rapidly - literally, with every step, marching behind the coffin...