During the early 1900s in Paris,
the Italian painter and sculptor
Amedeo Clemente Modigliani,
born July 12, 1884, died January 24, 1920, developed a unique style.
Today his graceful portraits and lush nudes at once evoke his name, but
during his brief career few apart from his fellow artists were aware of his
gifts. Modigliani had to struggle against poverty and chronic ill health,
dying of tuberculosis and excesses of drink and drugs at the age of 35.
In 1906, Modigliani settled in Paris, where he encountered the works of
Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec,
Georges Rouault, and
(in his "blue period") and assimilated their influence, as in
The Jewess (1908; private
collection, Paris). The strong influence of
Paul Cezanne's paintings is
clearly evident, both in Modigliani's deliberate distortion of the figure and
the free use of large, flat areas of color.
His friendship with Constantin Brancusi kindled Modigliani's interest in
sculpture, in which he would continue his very personal idiom, distinguished
by strong linear rhythms, simple elongated forms, and verticality.
(1912; Guggenheim Museum, New York City) and
Caryatid (1914; Museum of
Modern Art, New York City) exemplify his sculptural work, which consists
mainly of heads and, less often, of full figures.
After 1915, Modigliani devoted himself entirely to painting, producing
some of his best work. His interest in African masks and sculpture remains
evident, especially in the treatment of the sitters faces: flat and
masklike, with almond eyes, twisted noses, pursed mouths, and elongated
necks. Despite their extreme economy of composition and neutral backgrounds,
the portraits convey a sharp sense of the sitter's personality, as in
(1915; private collection, Milan). A fine example of Modigliani's
figure paintings is a reclining
Nude (1917; Guggenheim Museum), an elegant,
arresting arrangement of curved lines and planes as well as a striking
idealization of feminine sexuality.