Art Styles in 20th century Art Map

 





Amedeo Modigliani

 

 




(1884 - 1920)
 





The Poetry of Seeing


 
 
   

 



He was Our Aristocrat

 

 

 

 

"Modigliani's drawing is suffused with the utmost elegance. He was our aristocrat", was what Jean Cocteau wrote about Modigliani - giving no hint of the oft-rumoured enmity between the two. In fact, some parallels can be drawn between the artist inspired by the Bohemian life and the one inspired by Dandyism. In their elegant drawings, both had a tendency towards a decorative refinement of line. Moreover, Cocteau's affinity with Modigliani is expressed in a sensitive description of his art. "His curved line, which is often so pale and fine that it appears to be the ghost of a line, moves with the suppleness and grace of a Siamese cat and is never in danger of becoming thick or awkward. It was not Modigliani who distorted and lengthened the face, who established its asymmetry, knocked out one of the eyes, elongated the neck. All of this happened in his heart. And this is how he drew us at tables in the Cafe de la Rotonde; this is how he saw us, loved us, felt us, disagreed or fought with us. His drawing was a silent conversation, a dialogue between his lines and ours. And from this tree, which stood so sturdily on its corduroy-clad legs, this walking tree, so difficult to uproot once it had taken root, the leaves fell and covered the ground of Montparnasse. If at the end, his models began to resemble each other, then this was in the same way as Renoir's young girls resemble each other. We were all subordinated to his style, to a type that he carried within himself, and he automatically looked for faces that resembled the configuration that he required, from both man and woman. Resemblance is actually nothing more than a pretext that allows the painter to confirm the picture that is in his mind. And by that one does not mean an actual, physical picture, but the mystery of his own genius."
Cocteau's literary portrait of Modigliani once more emphasises the great stylisation of the portraits, which began to demonstrate an ever more perfect linear control. At the same time, Cocteau gives a subtle impression of Modi-gliani's position within the Parisian art scene. As a painter, he was not one of its leading figures but always in the proximity of such figures. To put it succinctly: he was a character. Everybody knew him, everybody had their portrait painted by him, his art was popular, even if nobody yet knew exactly what was so special about it.
Despite the general air of depression, the first years of the war were more successful for Modigliani than all the years preceding it. There is no trace at this time of the legendary isolation that would be described in so many monographs. In 1914 Max Jacob introduced him to the young art dealer Paul Guillaume, who had opened a gallery on the Rue du Faubourg-St.-Honore on the Right Bank shortly before the outbreak of war. He was exhibiting artists still virtually unknown, such as the Russians Natalia Goncharova (1881-1962) and Mikhail Larionov (1881-1964), as well as Giorgio de Chiroco (1888-1978) and Francis Picabia (1879-1953). Paul Guillaume bought and sold Modigliani's pictures and had him participate in many group exhibitions at his gallery, thereby supplying the artist with crucial support. He did not, however, put him under contract nor hold a one man show of the Italian's work during his lifetime. Like de Chirico and Derain, Modigliani painted his most important patron in oil a number of times. In the Milan portrait Guillaume, hat pushed back and tie slightly askew, seems casual and relaxed. In another portrait that Modigliani painted of Guillaume, now in a private Paris collection, the inscription NOVO PILOTA appears in the lower left-hand corner, a compliment that compared Guillaume's progressive spirit with that of the aviation pioneers. Guillaume's feel for innovations in the art world can be compared with that of Vollard or Kahnweiler, although he never did achieve their fame - he shot himself in 1934 at the age of forty-three. His collection of African sculpture was attracting attention years before the outbreak of World War I. As owner of his own gallery he became one of the most important dealers in sculptures negres. Paul Guillaume supplied Guillaume Apollinaire with his large collection of "Oceanic fetishes", for example. Although Paul Guillaume's relationship with Modigliani was not as close as with other artists, he later played a decisive role in establishing Modigliani's fame in the United States. Through Guillaume's acquaintance with Dr Albert C. Barnes, a number of paintings by artists of the Ecole de Paris were acquired for the latter's collection in Merion, near Philadelphia, in 1923. They thereby also attracted the attention of American art museums. Modigliani's early death meant that he himself would never enjoy the fruits of this success, for as with Chaim Soutine, Guillaume's picture sales to the American market would have made Modigliani a wealthy man overnight.

 

 

 
Portrait of Paul Guillaume - Novo Pilota 
1915 
   
 


Portrait of Paul Guillaume 
1916 

 

 

 


Paul Guillaume 
1916 

 

 

 

The young art dealer Paul Guillaume, who opened his own gallery in the spring of 1914 in Faubourg Saint-Honore, exhibited a number of then unknown artists such as de Chirico, Derain and Delaunay. Max Jacob drew his attention to Modigliani and he began to lend him support in 1914. In so doing, he replaced Dr Paul Alexandre, with whom Modigliani had lost contact after the outbreak of the war. Guillaume and Modigliani, both exempted from military service for health reasons, spent the war years in Paris.
 

 

 

 

When Modigliani made the acquaintance in 1916 of the Polish poet Leopold Zborovski (1889-1932), he met the greatest admirer of his art in his lifetime, and one who became an understanding and impassioned friend. Zborovski, who had come to Paris in 1914 to study literature, earned his living selling books and prints. As an art dealer, Zborovksi did not have Guillaume's important contacts and certainly none of his feeling for the avant-garde, but it was he and his wife Anna who offered Modigliani their self-sacrificing support in the last years of the artists's life. Modigliani, who painted the couple in a number of portraits received a daily allowance and painting materials from Zborovski, and the couple also allowed him to place his easel in their living-room. Zborovski is also credited with employing professional models for Modigliani, thereby having a major part in the series of nudes which Modigliani executed in 1917.

   
 
Portrait of Leopold Zborowski 
1916 
   
 

The Polish poet, known as "Zbo" to his friends, had been living in Paris since 1914 and was active as an art dealer. He and his wife Anna gave their self-sacrificing help to Modigliani, whose health steadily deteriorated in his last years. When Modigliani moved out of the flat he shared with Beatrice Hastings on the Rue Norvain on Montmartre, the Zborovskis gave him a place to live and also let him use a room in their flat as a studio.

   
 
Leopold Zborowski 
1916 
   
 
Portrait of Leopold Zborowski 
1917
   
 
Leopold Zborowski 
1918
   
 
Leopold Zborowski with Cane
1918
   
 
Leopold Zborowski 
1919
   
 
Portrait of Leopold Zborowski 
1919
   
 
Portrait of a Man with Hat
1915 
   
 
Portrait of a Woman 
1915 

 

   
 
Head of Red-Haired Woman 
1915 
   
 
Count Weilhorski
 

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