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Thursday, September 27, 2012

Modigliani, Amedeo


Portrait of Sofa Almaiisa
1916
oil on canvas
81 x 116 cm
Private Collection

“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.” (Modigliani)
Amedeo Clemente Modigliani (1884 - 1920) was an Italian painter and sculptor who worked mainly in France. He was born as the forth and the youngest child in the family, which belonged to the secularized Jewish bourgeoisie. His father was a money-changer, but when his business failed, the family lived in poverty. Amedeo's birth saved the family from ruin, as according to an ancient law, creditors could not seize the bed of a pregnant woman or a mother with a newborn child.

His mother was, in many ways, instrumental in his ability to pursue art as a vocation. When he was eleven years of age, she had noted in her diary: "The child's character is still so unformed that I cannot say what I think of it. He behaves like a spoiled child, but he does not lack intelligence. We shall have to wait and see what is inside this chrysalis. Perhaps an artist?"
Today, Modigliani  is known for his paintings and sculptures in a modern style characterized by mask-like faces and elongation of form but during his brief career few apart from his fellow artists were aware of his gifts. He had to struggle against poverty and chronic ill health. He was influenced through his art studies by the writings of Nietzsche, Baudelaire, Carducci, Comte de Lautréamont, and others, and developed the belief that the only route to true creativity was through defiance and disorder.

He met the first serious love of his life, Russian poet Anna Akhmatova, when he was 26. Anna was tall with dark hair, pale skin and grey-green eyes, she embodied Modigliani's aesthetic ideal and the pair became engrossed in each other, although in later years they became apart. In 1914, the First World War broke out and he wanted to enlist but was exempted from military service for health reasons. In 1917, he met the 19-year old Jeanne Hebuterne (1898-1920), student of the academy and started to live together. "She was gentle, shy, quiet and delicate. A little bit depressive". She became his major model until his death, he painted her no less than 25 times. In 1918, Modigliani and Jeanne left Paris, which was under the threat of occupation by Germans, and went for the southern coast. In Nice and its environments he produced most of the paintings that would later become his most popular and highest-priced works. In November, 1918 in Nice, Jeanne  gave birth to a girl.

After returning to Paris, by the end of 1919, he became seriously ill with tubercular meningitis, exacerbated by poverty, overwork and addiction to alcohol and narcotics, and he died on January 24, 1920, at the age of 35. When he died, his pregnant wife of nearly nine months was emotionally destroyed by his death. Two days after his death, she jumped out of a 5th storey window and killed herself and her unborn child. They were buried together in the Pere Lachaise cemetery. Their orphan daughter was adopted by Modigliani’s sister in Florence; later she would write an important biography of her father Modigliani : Man and Myth.
http://www.imaginarymuseum.net/view/flipcard