(After) Amedeo Modigliani (1884-1920)


Amedeo Modigliani was born in 1884. In 1898 his mother enrolled him as a pupil in the studio of Micheli, the best painter in Livorno. He worked under Micheli until 1890, learning to paint landscapes, portraiture, still-lives, and nudes. In 1902, Modigliani enrolled in the Accademia di Belle Arti in Florence to develop his skills in life drawing.

Modigliani left Florence for Paris in 1906 and settled in Le Bateau-Lavoir, a commune for penniless artists in Montmartre. Even in these Bohemian surroundings, Modigliani's radical behaviour stood out from his contemporaries. In his early years in Paris, Modigliani was heavily influenced by the lithographs of Toulouse Lautrec and Pablo Picasso, and later, it was the strong influence of Paul Cezanne's paintings that emerged in his work. Eventually as he matured, Modigliani developed his own unique style that cannot be adequately categorised with any other artists.

Modigliani's individual style suggests the influence of primitive art from Africa and Cambodia which he may have seen in the Musée de l'Homme. His paintings and sculpture portraits contain a certain resemblance to African masks or ancient Egyptian paintings, evident in their flat and mask like appearance, distinctive almond eyes, pursed mouths, twisted noses, and elongated necks. Originally seeing himself as a sculptor rather than a painter, he was encouraged to continue sculpting after the young art dealer Paul Guillaume introduced him to the sculptor Constantin Brancusi. Their consequent friendship 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. Modigliani's sculptures mainly consist of portrait heads and the occasional full figure.

After 1915 Modigliani devoted himself entirely to painting, producing some of his best work. His interest in African masks and sculpture remained evident throughout, especially in the treatment of the sitters' faces. Despite their extreme economy of composition and neutral backgrounds, his portraits always convey a sharp sense of the sitter's personality, his subjects commonly displaying striking idealisations of feminine sexuality.

Modigliani died on January 24, 1920.