Art Styles in 20th century Art Map

 




Amedeo Modigliani

 

 




(1884 - 1920)
 





The Poetry of Seeing


 
 
   
 


Life and Work


1915 Modigliani paints a portrait of Picasso. He moves to Beatrice Hastings' flat in the Rue Norvain on the Butte Montmartre.

1916 Many portraits of famous contemporaries. A series of photographs taken by Jean Cocteau on August 12 shows Modigliani with Picasso. Max Jacob, Andre Salmon, Ortiz de Zarate and Moise Kisling. In the autumn his work is shown in an exhibition in the studio of the painter Lejeune on the Rue Huygens. He meets the Polish poet and art dealer Leopold Zborovski, who will become his supportive friend. After breaking up with Beatrice Hastings, Modigliani moves out of their shared flat and begins to paint in Zborovski's flat in the Rue Joseph Bara.
 

   

 



He was Our Aristocrat

 

 

 


Pierrot (Self Portrait) 
1915 

Works of art are the product of a complicated system of social interaction between artists, patrons, critics, and a public that is as broad as possible, all influencing each other in their assessments and behaviour. In the years before World War I, Paris was a prime example of how such interrelated influences can emerge and flourish. The highly developed infrastructure of the worlds of art and culture was a prerequisite for the birth of what we today call the avant-garde. Like any stylistic movement, the avant-garde was the leading figures of the day with their clear objectives and manifestos; it was an amalgam of artistic directions and a tight network of personal contacts. From today's perspective, this development appears to have a greater stringency than was actually the case. The tendency of art history to classify everything creates the impression that this era was a series of art "isms" in which opposing groups - Fauvists, Cubists, Futurists, Orphists and Dadaists - trod the path of artistic progress with absolute consistency. Perhaps it has something to do with the military origins of the term avant-garde which makes portrayals of the development of modern art often sound like depictions of military battles and defeats. At the end of his long life, Picasso said: "When we discovered Cubism, we did not have the aim of discovering Cubism. We only wanted to express what was in us." This is, of course, a slight understatement, for at the time art was not purely concerned with the pursuit of high ideals, but also with success and recognition, with the exhibition and sale of pictures. Nonetheless, Picasso's statement does serve to reveal the distance between historical phenomena and the way in which they are actually experienced at the time. Therefore, we should put later descriptions to one side and imagine Paris in the pre-war years as a meeting-place for fascinating people of varied origins, as a relatively small melting-pot of artists, writers, musicians and critics, who all -whether they were taken up into the Mount Olympus of classical Modernism or have by now passed into obscurity - engaged in lively interchange and played their roles with elan as they set about designing anew the art of the young twentieth century.
 

   
 

When the war broke out, everything changed. Escape, emigration, conscription, and later, injury and death destroyed cultural affiliations in Paris as they did everywhere in Europe. Among the circle of artists in Paris, after August 1, 1914, those who had been spared military duty first had a feeling of abandonment but then made the best of it, slowly coming to terms with the situation. Modigliani, who at the outbreak of the war was apparently an enthusiastic volunteer for the front, was rejected on health grounds and was amongst those who spent the war years in Paris. After his phase as a sculptor he began to work with oils again around 1914 and his art now became ever more independent. The realisation of his personal poetic vision increased the distance between his own work and that of other possible influences. Modi-gliani consistently forged his own artistic path, earning him the reputation of the great, isolated loner. Apart from the series of nudes from 1917 and a few landscapes, Modigliani now devoted himself entirely to the portrait. His portrait paintings can be divided into two groups: paintings of friends and acquaintances, which can often be identified by the inscribed names, and portraits of anonymous models who have been stylised into diverse types. The portraits of Parisian friends and acquaintances, however, which made up the bulk of his work immediately after his phase as a sculptor, make the lone wolf Modigliani into a chronicler of the art scene that still remained on Montmarte and Montparnasse during the war. The first unmistakable "Modiglianis" are portraits of Jacques Lipchitz and his wife Berthe, Max Jacob (1876-1944), Jean Cocteau (1889-1963) and Chaim Soutine (1893-1943). These are names that are invariably cited when one speaks of the Parisian avant-garde, and are thereby also inseparably linked to the name Modigliani. Although he did not have the same artistic objectives, this reciprocal link finally guaranteed Modigliani's entry into the avant-garde.

   
 
Jacques and Berthe Lipchitz 
1917 
   
 
Portrait of Max Jacob 
1916 
   
 
Max Jacob 
1916 
   
 
Portrait of Jean Cocteau 
1916
 

 

 


Portrait of Chaim Soutine 
1915

 

 

 

The painter Chaim Soutine, originally from Lithuania,
came to Paris in 1913, where he lived a very humble life in a circle of other
Jewish emigre artists, such as Chagall, Lipchitz and Kisling.
Soutine, who found his personal, expressive style of painting in 1918,
was one of Modigliani's closest friends and greatest admirers.

   
 
Chaim Soutine 
   
 
Chaim Soutine 
   
 


Portrait of Chaim Soutine 
1917

 

 


 

 It ensured him his singular position in artistic Modernism, as it existed in Paris, and played a substantial role in contributing to the Modigliani legend. The writer Andre Salmon (1881-1969), for example, who can be seen beside Picasso and Modigliani on a photograph taken in 1916 by Jean Cocteau, later wrote a long novel in which he made Modigliani the main figure amongst the artists of Montmartre and Montparnasse.
The first pictures executed by Modigliani after his sculptures - the portrait of the sculptor Henri Laurens (1885-1954) and that of Picasso (1915) - show a fleeting, free brushwork style and a very restrained use of colour. As in the paintings of the caryatids, the surface of the picture is not entirely covered, so that one sees the cloth of the canvas and the eye is caught by exactly those areas where the painting begins and ends. Only a short time later, Modigliani covered his canvases completely, often sealing them with several layers of varnish. These portraits were painted with the help of the many drawings and sketches of his acquaintances which Modigliani took every opportunity to make. Some of the subjects also sat for him and it was not unusual for Modigliani to use photographs. For example, after many sittings for their portrait, it was finally the wedding photograph of the Lipchitz' that inspired Modigliani's painting of the couple.

   


Jean Cocteau
Modigliani, Picasso and Andre Salmon (from left), 1916


""A day with Picasso". On a Sunday in August of wartime 1916,
an illustrious group met in front of the Rotonde on Montparnasse and was photographed by Jean Cocteau.
Modigliani is standing on the left beside Picasso, whose portrait he had painted the year before.
On the right is Andre Salmon, who would later write the novel Montmartre - Montparnasse. The Life of Amedeo Modigliani.
Using Cocteau's 21 photographs, Billy Kluver has reconstructed this day in minute detail.
 

   
 
Portrait of Henri Laurens 
1915 
   
 
Portrait of Henri Laurens 
1915 
   
 
Portrait of Pablo Picasso 
1915 
   
 
Portrait of Picasso 
1915 
 

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