and Figure Paintings
"To do any work, I must have a living person... I must be able to see him opposite me."
Modigliani's portraits and single-figure paintings are among the most memorable and popular images of the early twentieth century. Accounting for some 90% of his total output, they possess an archetypal quality that sets them apart from the art of his contemporaries in Paris in the first two decades of the last century. Like the artist's nudes, they testify to an enduring fascination with the human form and physiognomy. Modigliani's mastery lies in his ability to retain the essential likeness of his sitters while couching that likeness in his own circumscribed vocabulary of forms.
Modigliani's portraits both draw on tradition and contest it. Though accepting the premise that a portrait should resemble the sitter, he makes the model conform to his personal formal vocabulary, so that the painting is recognizable in the first instance as 'a Modigliani'. The principal aim is neither to aggrandise the sitter nor to record him or her for posterity, but rather to capture the image of an individual at a specific moment in the artist's life. Those closest to him - his friend and protege the painter Chaim Soutine, for example - are rendered sympathetically and women are generally flattered more than men, who are sometimes almost caricatured or satirised, as in Jean Cocteau and Juan Gris. Like the Italian Renaissance works he admired so much, Modigliani's portraits have the kind of distancing effect that invites the viewer to penetrate beyond the surface of the image in order to unlock its secrets. This effect is achieved primarily through expressive eyes, which, when blank or painted in a single colour, often make the sitter appear absorbed in his or her thoughts. Only rarely does Modigliani avail himself of a centuries-old convention and incorporate clues as to the status of the sitter.
The subjects are not named, and this practice is a further indication that the artist was primarily concerned in his portraits and figure paintings with the variety of the human form as such, rather than with the specifics of a given sitter. The monumentality of these paintings, and their feeling for mass, testify to the underlying influence of Cezanne. More naturalistic and extremely restrained emotionally, the single-figure pieces have been called 'visions of humanity'. The surfaces are thinly painted and smooth, and the palette is cooler than that of the sometimes almost garish Parisian works.
With their long, curved necks, their flat, elongated, oval faces, almond-shaped eyes and small, pursed lips, these images conform most obviously to what is now perceived as the artist's signature style. The monochromatic tones and structural concerns of his earlier portraits have become less important than the inherently expressive, harmonious, curvilinear compositions, closer to the sinuous lines of the caryatid drawings of 1913. Despite subtle allusions to location - a dado rail, a door frame, a fireplace - the backgrounds generally consist of painterly areas of pure, abstract colour, reminiscent of paintings by Matisse.
In contrast to the nervous energy characteristic of much early twentieth-century portraiture - these late works by Modigliani radiate controlled emotional intensity. They are suffused with melancholy, and it has often been remarked that their calm contrasts with the artist's chaotic personal life. Although Modigliani was evidently more interested in physiognomy per se than in psychology or character analysis, he does hint at his own feelings towards his sitters by the way in which he uses facial expressions or the position of the hands to capture something of their personality."
Amedeo Modigliani Art
- Woman's Head with Beauty Spot (1907)
- Maud Abrantes (1908)
- Joseph Levi (1910)
- Jean Alexandre (1909)
- Paul Alexandre on a Brown Background (1909)
- Beggar Woman (1909)
- The Beggar of Leghorn (1909)
- Bust-Length Portrait of a Young Woman (1911)
- Beatrice Hastings (1914)
- Woman's Head (1915)
- Beatrice Hastings (1915)
- Pierre Reverdy (1915)
- Pablo Picasso (1915)
- Raimondo (1915)
- Madam Pompadour (1915)
- Moise Kisling (1915)
- Pierrot (1915)
- Woman with Velvet Ribbon (The Black Border) (1915)
- Leon Indenbaum (1915)
- Antonia (1915)
- Portrait of a Young Girl (Louise) (1915)
- Serving Woman (La Fantesca) (1915)
- Portrait of Paul Guillaume (Novo Pilota) (1915)
- Portrait of a Man with Hat (1915)
- Victoria (1916)
- Marguerite Seated (1916)
- Chaim Soutine (1916)
- Pinchus Kremegne (1916)
- Leopold Zborowski (1916)
- Hanka Zborowska (1917)
- Chakoska (1917)
- Jeanne Hebutterne with Necklace (1917)
- Lunia Czechowska (1917)
- Woman in White Coat (1917)
- Little Girl in Blue (1918)
- Pierre-Edouard Baranowksi (1918)
- Little Girl in Black Apron (1918)
- Young Girl in Beret (1918)
- Leopold Zborowski (1918)
- Red Haired Girl (1915)
- Jeanne Hebuterne (1918)
- Jeanne Hebuterne in Large Hat (1918)
- The Young Apprentice (1918)
- Young Man (Student) (1919)
- The Zouave (1919)
- Roger Dutilleul (1919)
- Pink Blouse (1919)
- Jeanne Hebuterne 2 (1919)
- Motherhood (1919)
- Portrait of Thora Klinckowstrom (1919)
- Young Man with Cap (1919)
- Self-Portrait (1919)
Woman's Head with Beauty Spot (1907)
Modigliani must have considered this a particularly important picture, since he took it to Rue du Delta, the house rented by his first patron, Paul Alexandre, who became its first owner. It bears the mark of the classical training that Modigliani received, first in Florence, then in 1903 at the Istituto di Belle Arti in Venice. The work is highly individual: the canvas has received little preparation, and the model is seen from much closer than usual. But in other respects, we find Modigliani already engaged in the quest that occupied his entire life. He has chosen a frontal pose and an even gaze for the model, and seeks to evoke her personality, even if her sole distinctive physical feature here is a beauty spot.
Maud Abrantes (1908)
A portrait of Maud Abrantes, "a supremely elegant woman" in the view of Paul Alexandre. She accompanied Modigliani in November or December 1907, when Henri Doucet introduced him to Paul Alexandre's "artistic colony" in Rue du Delta. Abrantes herself did some drawing, and greatly enjoyed the time she spent amid the artists, in particular their evening poetry sessions and fancy-dress parties. A year later, in November 1908, now pregnant, she mysteriously parted ways with them, leaving for New York. She sent Paul Alexandre a postcard from the transatlantic steamer: "We get in tomorrow. Are you still reading Malarme [sic]. I can't tell you how much I miss those charming evenings we all spent gathered around your hearth. Those were the days! Best wishes from Maud Abrantes". Pride and melancholy are reflected in this portrait, for which there is at least one preparatory sketch.
Joseph Levi (1910)
Joseph Levi was a painter and picture-restorer in Montmartre in the early part of the century. A friend of Modigliani's, he often lent him money, which Modigliani reimbursed in the form of drawings or paintings. The painting has remained in the sitter's family to this day. It is a classic portrait, painted with broad strokes of colour, and shows clear evidence of Modigliani's experiments with Fauvisme, which probably followed his first encounter with the work of Matisse and Derain. Levi was a recognized artist, with a confidence born of experience, and his vigorous character is powerfully conveyed here. Three years later Modigliani painted a portrait of Joseph's son Gaston, perhaps as a token of friendship or in gratitude for pecuniary assistance.
Jean Alexandre (1909)
This portrait was commissioned by the sitter, then a young student of pharmacy, who is seen gazing dreamily out of the picture, in more relaxed pose than either his father or brother; he was after all, neither a family man nor a patron of the arts. On the other hand, when Paul Alexandre was away from Paris during spring 1909, Jean took over his role, encouraging Modigliani in his work and helping him in daily life. He continued the work of decorating the walls of the pavilion in Rue du Delta, hanging almost nothing but Modiglianis. He posed for the portrait in Modigliani's studio at 14, Cite Falguiere. He attempted to introduce Modigliani, with varying success, to persons likely to commission work, but found the artist's disinterest and intransigence difficult to understand: "I never saw anyone so reluctant to extricate himself from a mess", he wrote to Paul on April 23, 1909. He was astounded by the ferocious demands Modigliani made of himself. Speaking of this portrait in a letter of March 26, 1906, he told his brother Paul: "I had great difficulty preventing him from chucking it on the fire". Two years later, Jean contracted tuberculosis, of which he died in June 1913, at the age of twenty-six. Modigliani had left to spend three months sculpting in Italy, was not informed, and returned to Paris a matter of days after the funeral.
Paul Alexandre on a Brown Background (1909)
In November or December 1907, after a year in Paris, Modigliani had run out of money, and he was evicted from his studio on Place Jean-Baptiste Clement. The painter Henri Doucet met him at the Lapin Agile, and suggested going to meet Dr Paul Alexandre at Rue du Delta. There the young dermatologist had rented a small house, already marked down for demolition, for the use of his artist friends. Alexandre (1881-1968) was, from the outset, impressed by Modigliani's charm, talent and cultivation. He supported him constantly, and insisted on using his and no other artist's work to decorate the walls of the Delta. Together they visited museums and such exhibitions as the 1910 Cezanne retrospective at Bernheim-Jeune. Alexandre also took Modigliani out to the circus and theatre; a series of virtuoso sketches resulted. Modigliani, in turn, acquainted him with "Negro art" and Lautreamont's Chants de Maldoror. Alexandre was in the early stages of his career, and had limited resources, but was for a long time Modigliani's sole buyer. But he was also his friend: he persuaded him not to destroy works with which the young artist was not completely satisfied, and engineered the first commissions Modigliani had obtained since his arrival in Paris: portraits of his own family (Jean-Baptiste and Jean Alexandre) and friends (Woman in Riding Costume). Modigliani made five portraits of Paul Alexandre between 1909 and 1913, along with many drawings and studies. Their friendship came to a complete end at the outbreak of World War I, when Alexandre was mobilized and served as a doctor with the infantry. They were never to meet again. Alexandre possessed at least twenty-five portraits and hundreds of drawings by Modigliani. He met him almost every day from 1907 until 1912, and regularly until the summer of 1914.
Beggar Woman (1909)
This, one of the masterpieces of this period, was presented and dedicated by Modigliani to Jean Alexandre, "to keep [him] happy" while he was waiting for his own portrait to be finished. It was hung at the Delta, and exhibited at the 1910 Salon des Independants. Modigliani often painted the humble and poor; in the same letter, Jean speaks of a painting, probably since lost, of two beggar women. Modigliani could not, of course, afford to pay professional models.
The Beggar of Leghorn (1909)
Thiswas the only work painted during Modigliani's stay in Leghorn that he was anxious to bring back to Paris. He is said to have kept it for several months on the wall of his Rue Falguiere studio, before exhibiting it with several drawings and five other paintings including Beggar Woman at the Salon des Independants of 1910. In his early years, alongside portraits of his friends, poor people were among his favoured subjects. Examples include The Cellist, and La Petite Jeanne, who appears in two nudes of 1908. True, Modigliani was, at the time, unable to pay for models, but he seems throughout his life to have elected to paint the poor. In 1918-19, when he was in the south of France, his most touching models were children, peasants, and working-class men and women. Cezanne had been the figurehead for an entire generation of painters - and this picture, though painted at Leghorn, clearly shows his influence; the structure of the face and the strokes of intense colour that punctuate its composition - the blue and green in particular - are particularly reminiscent of his style.
Bust-Length Portrait of a Young Woman (1911)
Painted in swift and all but schematic strokes, this is one of the first Modigliani works to exhibit simplified forms, thinned colours, an elongated neck and a saturnine gaze. Paul Alexandre's description of Modigliani's technique - "his constant aim was to simplify while grasping the basic essentials" - is perfectly illustrated by this important work, which marks a transition in Modigliani's style, shortly before he turned to sculpture. The inspiration for the painting was probably Anna Akhmatova, whom Modigliani many times depicted as a caryatid or an Egyptian goddess.
Beatrice Hastings (1914)
Paris columnist for the English weekly The New Age, Beatrice Hastings (1879-1943) arrived in Paris in April 1914 and took lodgings in the Rue du Montparnasse, close to the studios of Brancusi and Lipchitz, before moving the following autumn to a little house with a garden in Montmartre. According to her memoirs, she met Modigliani at Chez Rosalie, a cheap cremerie kept by the Italian Rosalie Tobia. There followed a two-year affair full of wild passion and wild quarrels, in which hashish and alcohol - she was unusual for the time and place in getting drunk on whisky - played a considerable role. Yet it was a time in which Modigliani painted many important works, including fourteen paintings and many drawings of Beatrice. This portrait seems to be one of the earliest he made of her. It is of the utmost simplicity. Only the almost pointilliste brushstrokes, as though stamped onto the canvas, their highly contrasted colours vibrating with light, carry distant overtones of torment.
Woman's Head (1915)
This little portrait has a sculptural aspect, perceptible as always in the treatment of the nose and the line leading up to the eyebrows. But a very womanly roundness softens the mask of this anonymous face. The largely uniform dark blue background is crossed by a number of white trails probably made with the finger. The sky-blue of the bodice, in which some contrasting colour appears, sets off the model's bronzed complexion. This is perhaps a stylistic exercise rather than a portrait, midway between the faces that still bear traces of Cubist treatment and the more rounded-out features of late 1916.
Beatrice Hastings (1915)
This representation is exceedingly remote from the exalted and mercurial character described by Hastings's contemporaries and delineated in Beatrice Hastings's own memoirs: the turbulent woman who was briefly married to a prize fighter, then active as a suffragette. Hastings's trenchant attitudes not infrequently stirred up a scandal. She certainly contrived this in the avant-garde with her January 1915 article for The New Age, in which she reported on Picasso's Portrait of Max Jacob and his retreat from Cubism. And her tempestuous affair with the writer Raymond Radiguet in 1921, conducted under the jealous eye of Cocteau, also attracted no little attention. Beatrice Hastings is easily recognizable in this small portrait: rather round face, small mouth, central parting, small, piercing eyes, and large, high ears. The touches of green set off the ochreous complexion. In places- a technique frequently found in Modiglianis of this period - the prepared canvas shows through. Hastings was thirty-six at the time of this portrait, but Modigliani mostly portrayed her with a very smooth, doll-like face.
Pierre Reverdy (1915)
Pierre Reverdy (1889-1960), born in Narbonne, moved to Montmartre in 1910; there he met Picasso, Matisse, Braque, Max Jacob, Apollinaire and Andre Breton. His early poems count among the sources of Surrealism. In 1916, he published La Lucarne ovale (The Oval Skylight- a definition of the poetic image quickly adopted by Breton); Les Ardoises du toil appeared in 1918. He enlisted and was discharged in 1916, and the following year founded the magazine Nord-Sud, which published texts by Max Jacob and Apollinaire, and soon afterwards works by the future Surrealists, Breton, Soupault, Aragon and Tzara. After 1925, he led a life of prayer and retreat near Solesmes, while continuing to write and publish collections of poetry. Reverdy considered Cubism antithetical to the art of the portrait, and this very classical likeness no doubt confirmed him in his views.
Pablo Picasso (1915)
Picasso was never among Modigliani's closest friends. But their paths often crossed, especially during the World War I; neither took part, but their friends had all enlisted or been drafted, leaving Paris a much emptier place. Daily life was difficult. Remittances from home were no longer reaching foreign artists. Picasso was already well known, but he could no longer count on the support of his dealer, since Kahnweiler was of German origin and could not return to France, while Eva Gouel, with whom he had been conducting a passionate affair over the past four years, was dying of tuberculosis. Paul Alexandre makes it clear that Modigliani always believed in his own work, but since he was neither recognized nor appreciated, and had no share in the intellectual prestige of avant-garde experiments such as Cubism, he kept his distance from Picasso's circles, in which he felt out of place. As he does in a number of other pictures, Modigliani gives the name of the model and a descriptive annotation, here: savoir. It no doubt refers to an aspect of Picasso's art defined by Maud Dale, where, speaking of the role played by the intellect in both Picasso and Modigliani, she made an important distinction. Picasso's art was, she said, visionary. He sees otherwise than by normal sight. Webster defines vision as "the act or power of perceiving mental images (as those formed by the imagination)". Modigliani's art is revelatory, and to "reveal", in Webster's definition, is to "unveil" or "discover".
"Raimondo" might be the very young Raymond Radiguet (1903-1923). Another portrait, probably of Radiguet, dated "1915" by Modigliani himself, bears the annotation raymond. Radiguet was undoubtedly a very precocious writer, whose first poems were written when he was fifteen; his debut in Paris literary and artistic circles, under the patronage of Andre Salmon, Max Jacob and Jean Cocteau dates from around 1918, or perhaps from June 1919, when he met Cocteau. If the model is indeed Radiguet, he would have been a mere twelve years old in 1915, and spending more time at the lycee Charlemagne than in the studios and cafes of Montmartre or Montparnasse. However, it seems that he also took courses of drawing at the Grande Chaumiere and Academie Colarossi, where he might have met Modigliani. In 1918, Modigliani made a drawing, annotated with a quotation from D'Annunzio, which certainly represents Radiguet.
Madam Pompadour (1915)
This exceptional portrait, clearly influenced by Cubism, is a further representation of Beatrice Hastings. Their tormented relationship had now come to an end, and Beatrice came to the opening on the arm of her new lover, the Milanese sculptor Pina, much to Modigliani's annoyance. Public and critics were both present in great numbers, among them Alphonse Kann, Jacques Doucet, Paul Poiret, Gustave Kahn, Constant Lepoutre (a dealer whose portrait Modigliani later painted), and Louis Vauxcelles, who detested Cubism but remarked: "By contrast, I was interested by the new-style Modiglianis". Sculptural in inspiration, and - pace Vauxcelles - almost Cubist, the portrait stands out against a grid pattern that economically suggests the background. It displays Modigliani's habitual sobriety of colour; aside from black and white, only three shades are used. Ironically, and perhaps tenderly, dubbed "Madam Pompadour", Hastings wears one of the "impossible English hats" of which Jeanne Modigliani speaks.
Moise Kisling (1915)
Moise Kisling (1891-1953) studied at the Krakow School of Fine Arts before coming to Paris in 1910. Like so many others, he was introduced by Andre Salmon and Max Jacob to an entire generation of painters who had gravitated to Paris, notably Picasso, Modigliani and Pascin. He was briefly influenced by Cubism (1912-13). At the start of World War I, he enlisted voluntarily, joining the same regiment of the Foreign Legion as Blaise Cendrars, was wounded in 1915 and consequently discharged. He was one of the most faithful of Modigliani's friends, and gave him constant help, more particularly from 1916 on; he shared his studio at 3 Rue Joseph Bara with him, and provided him with materials. Kisling "was never short of money", his son Jean tells us. "By the age of nineteen, he was already keeping his family on income from his painting. His comfortable studio was open to everyone." Modigliani made three portraits and many drawings of Kisling. Shortly after Modigliani's death at the Hopital de la Charite, Kisling and Conrad Moricand made a death mask, and Lipchitz cast twelve of them in bronze for the artist's closest friends.
Picasso saw himself as Harlequin, the adroit manipulator in his motley suit, a demiurge in perpetual mutation. Modigliani here paints himself as Pierrot, the candid, inspired, lunaire poet, a figure he remembered from childhood evenings at the theatre and the commedia del-l'arte. This not just a homage to his eternal Italy. The theme was an obsession with painters of the Paris School, as witness Picasso's 'saltimbanque period' and the numerous variants of Harlequin and other commedia characters painted by Gris, Lipchitz, Derain and Braque. Modigliani frequently Italianized fore- and surnames, but here the Italian Pedrolino here gives way to the French Pierrot, with its overtones of Watteau's Gilles and the mime Duburau's incarnation of Pierrot as dreamy lover.
Woman with Velvet Ribbon (The Black Border) (1915)
The model stands against a verdant tree-filled landscape, which is all but unparalleled in a Modigliani portrait. If we except Standing Nude with Garden Background, only two other cases are known, both painted in the south of France three years later: Portrait of Hanka Zborowska against a Tree and The Grocer's Beautiful Wife. This portrait therefore possesses considerable interest, and can be considered an experiment that was not immediately followed up. The background foliage is, moreover, treated without any attempt at perspective or depth, using colours placed side-by-side as if in a harmonious tapestry. In many places the prepared canvas has been allowed to show through, lightening and as it were "aerating" the composition.
Leon Indenbaum (1915)
The sculptor Leon Indenbaum (1882-1981) was of Russian origin and lived at La Ruche from 1911 to 1913, when he moved to Rue du Montparnasse. He formed part of a group that, in or around 1912, created a Yiddish magazine at the Ruche, Machmadim (Delights); it included Henri Epstein, Leo Koenig, Marek Szwarc and no doubt Pinchus Kremegne. "He chose a canvas from the old pictures that I had salvaged and, after three sessions, signed it, saying: 'It's for you'", Indenbaum tells us. Paradoxically, given the warmth and generosity of the model, in few Modigliani portraits are the colours so cold. The extreme pallor of the face, with its frozen gaze, stands out against the grey-blue of the cardigan and the dark background, which resembles slate slabs of differing densities. The childish handwriting of the signature is as if engraved in marble, and accentuates the sculptural effect.
This portrait is similar in dimensions and period to La Fantesca. Antonia is set against a background of picture rails. The model's name is known only through the inset showing her forename. Only two colours are used, both dark and muted: the brown of Antonia's hair and the background, and the black of the robe, thus reinforcing the sculptural quality of the portrait. It still shows traces of Cubist influence: the nose and ear are seen in profile in a full-face portrait, and the design is radically simplified.
Portrait of a Young Girl (Louise) (1915)
Modigliani twice painted "la petite Louise" (Little Louise), inscribing the second version with her name and the information "Montmartre". The second version is larger, and shows Louise seated full-face, with the same shawl over her shoulders and the same black scarf. Striving to make the most of each model's presence, Modigliani often painted the same person twice, first bust-length, as though in "waist shot", then in a larger format, standing or seated, in the same pose. Only a few details change in such cases. Sometimes, as here, the background colour is altered, with ochre and red in this version and a grey-green background for the seated portrait.
Serving Woman (La Fantesca) (1915)
This portrait is similar in format and inspiration to Antonia. Modigliani positions the serving woman in a pose soon to become familiar to us: seated full-face, with hands crossed on her knees. The areas of exposed canvas remind us of Modigliani's interest in the technique and aesthetics of the Fauves, while his sculptural interest is clear in the placid, timeless face. The work is marked by a social implication: the apron clearly denotes the sitter's status. A peaceful atmosphere emanates from the blue-grey background and the light-brown picture-rails. As so often in Modigliani, the slightly off-centre pose of the model is balanced by the presence on the wall of a picture or mirror.
Portrait of Paul Guillaume (Novo Pilota) (1915)
Paul Guillaume (1891-1934) burst onto the Parisian art scene as a dealer in 1914, when he opened his first gallery in Rue de Miromesnil. Since 1966, a large part of his prestigious collection has been exhibited at the Musee de 1'Orangerie. Guillaume was determined to escape the modest background into which he was born, and, having acquired his artistic education in the cafes of Montmartre, he began his career by acquiring Picassos and African statuettes, becoming something of a specialist in the latter. To make his living, he worked in clerical capacity for a garage-keeper, who allowed him to exhibit one of his statuettes in the garage window. Apollinaire spotted it, and thus began the life of art dealing and research to which Paul Guillaume thereafter devoted himself full-time. Thanks to Apollinaire, Max Jacob and Waldemar George, he was able to expand his activities, and even contrived to maintain them during World War I. "When Max Jacob presented him to me, in 1914", Guillaume stated in his open letter to Francis Carco, "Modigliani was a sculptor who drew. Rightly or wrongly, I took responsibility for urging him to paint." Guillaume was Modigliani's first real dealer.
Portrait of a Man with Hat (1915)
In 1972, when they exhibited this work in New York, Hirsch & Adler identified the model as Jose Pacheco. Contemporary photos kindly made available by the Fondation Gulbenkian in Paris do indeed show a striking resemblance. Jose Pacheco (1885-1934) left hisnative Lisbon in late 1909 or early 1910, and moved to the Paris studio that his compatriot Amadeo de Souza Cardoso, also a painter, passed on to him at the Cite Falguiere. He furthered his studies in architecture and graphic arts in the most reputable academies libres and ateliers. He had met Modigliani at the Cite Falguiere - when Modigliani was working primarily on sculpture - and the two had formed a very close friendship, so it was natural for him to suggest a combined exhibition in his new studio. The seven Modigliani sculptures formed an ensemble, an outline of the "temple of beauty" or volupte that he dreamed of realizing, according to Paul Guillaume. There were many Portuguese artists in Paris prior to the outbreak of World War I, and Jose Pacheco no doubt attracted Modigliani by his youthful spirit, rebellious nature and love of poetry. Pacheco was close to Fernando Pessoa, with whom he founded the poetic movement Orfeu (1915-17), and formed part of a Futurist avant-garde that was determined to revolutionize graphic art in Portugal.
Though in a slightly larger format, the portrait of Victoria is in direct line of descent from Woman with Necklace. Her hair is darker, and the gaze beneath her arched eyebrows is a proud one. She is set against the same picture frames as Woman with Necklace. Modigliani rarely contrived such economy of colour, or such a perfect grasp of his model. This portrait illustrates Cocteau's observation, that "in Modigliani, the resemblance is so great that it sometimes occurs, as it did with Toulouse-Lautrec, that this likeness finds expression in and of itself, and strikes even those who never knew the models. Likeness then becomes a pretext through which the painter affirms his own image, not his physical image, but the mysterious image of his own genius". Its impasto makes this painting one of the most representative of Modigliani's Expressionism; its sombre density is a product of the painter's sculptural aspirations, which remained with him till death.
Marguerite Seated (1916)
This painting, inscribed Margherita, again demonstrates Modigliani's interest in series. He painted her twice, once seated on a chair in her pink square-necked dress, and once bust-length, with a superb rose at her breast. Some have identified her as Modigliani's sister; if so, he painted her from memory, since he had not returned to Italy since the summer of 1913. Professional models were too expensive and in any case hard to find after the start of the war, so she seems more likely to be a makeshift model whose first name Modigliani as usual Italianized, perhaps in memory of his sister. There is no way of knowing whether it was this painting or its pair that featured in the solitary one-man exhibition of Modigliani's lifetime. This took place in Berthe Weill's gallery at 50 Rue Taitbout, in December 1917, and was the occasion of when Modigliani's nudes so famously outraged public and police.
Chaim Soutine (1916)
Born in Byelorussia to a very modest family of Jewish tailors, Chaim Soutine (1893-1943) studied drawing at Minsk, then at Vilnius, where he met Pinchus Kremegne. He arrived in Paris in 1913, in the wake of Kikoine, who obtained a place for him at La Ruche. Then he worked variously at La Ruche and the Cite Falguiere, where Modigliani met him in 1915 through their common acquaintance, Lipchitz. The two men were for a long while companions in poverty. Soutine seems never to have painted a portrait of Modigliani, while Modigliani painted his friend four times, on canvas and wood, and made some ten drawings of him. Modigliani was almost exclusively concerned with the human figure - portrait or nude - and needed an endless supply of new models, preferably drawn from his own circle; he may also have painted Soutine so often in recognition of their very close friendship and of the many hard times they had together survived. Sou-tine, meanwhile, greatly admired the elegance and culture of Modigliani, who was ten years his elder, and may not have dared ask him to pose. The affinities between the two men are clear in this portrait. The pathos of the young artist, not yet appreciated at his worth, is emphasized by the expression of Soutine's gaze, the rebellious lock of hair, and the heavy, ruddy features. The contrast between the very sombre dominant tones of the background and the beige-ochre of the jacket intensify the sense of the model's distress. The very particular position of the fingers of Soutine's left hand is thought to be the sign of the Jewish priestly blessing. Is this an allusion to Soutine's priestly descent? One thing is certain: this is one of the many symbols that Modigliani liked to include in his paintings.
Pinchus Kremegne (1916)
Pinchus (Pavel or Paul) Kremegne (1890-1981) studied art in Vilnius alongside Charm Soutine. In 1912, six months before Soutine, he arrived at La Ruche, where he met Chagall, Leger and Modigliani. In 1913, he exhibited sculpture at the Salon des Independants. At this point, he and Soutine were companions in misery: "You have to starve to death to make beautiful things!" he recalled, sixty years later. From 1915 on, he devoted himself to painting (a series of Red Nudes in 1916, in due course followed by still lifes and landscapes), and he too began selling his works to Zborowski and to Paul Guillaume. This portrait, very dense in texture, can be considered a companion piece to the Soutine portrait of the same period; Modigliani has depicted them as brothers in penury, origin and art, each in the same pose, with hands on knees. Soutine's light jacket is answered by Kremegne's dark one; in his portrait, the only light comes from the hands and the sad and sensitive face. One distinction between the two paintings is found in the position of the fingers of the left hand: Kremegne was one of the instigators of the Machmadin, an avant-garde Zionist movement, but his fingers do not form the benediction seen in Soutine's portrait, where it perhaps signalled a priestly descent that Kremegne did not share.
Leopold Zborowski (1916)
Leopold Zborowski (1889-1932) was a young Polish poet who had come to Paris to continue his studies, when he, like many other immigrants, was cut off from family and friends by the outbreak of World War I. To make his living, he began trading in books, prints, then pictures, from his apartment. His neighbour at 3 Rue Joseph Bara in Montparnasse was Moise Kisling, and it was Kisling who, according to Jacques Lipchitz, introduced Zborowski to Modigliani. Here was a a painter, Zborowski told his wife, who was "twice as good as Picasso"; they saw him again at the Lyre et Palette evenings and at the Rotonde, and in 1916, Zborowski succeeded Paul Guillaume as Modigliani's contracted dealer, though in fact "Zbo" and Guillaume continued to work together. This is the first of Modigliani's six portraits of Zborowski. and was painted before their collaboration began. The dealer is seen with folded arms, showing great assurance and undoubted confidence in the future - perhaps in the artistic future of his new protege. The contrasting colours and impasto are characteristic of the period. In case anyone was in any doubt, the identity of the model is inscribed in large capitals above his head. This portrait of Zborowski takes after the two portraits of Paul Guillaume that Modigliani had painted the year before, but the format is smaller, as though Modigliani were aware that Zborowski was a less substantial figure.
Hanka Zborowska (1917)
One of the first of at least ten paintings representing Hanka (Polish diminutive of Anna), the true or common-law wife of Leopold Zborowski. Once again, the name of the sitter is prominently spelled out on the portrait. Purity and classicism are the defining traits of Modigliani's formal portraits, which is why his very personal and timeless style so touches us. There are no accessories, and the background is always very simple, so there is nothing to distract our contemplation. The very rigorous composition, perfectly balanced, reflects Hanka's smooth, brunette looks, here given a form reminiscent of the heads sculpted by Modigliani some years before. The high collar, punctuated by a cabochon broach, swells into a dazzling white corolla that echoes the yellow-striped hanging on the wall. Zborowska appears sovereign in the detachment of her distant gaze; her features are so stylized that they elicit complete conviction, a thorough-going recognition quite beyond that produced by resemblance's appeal to memory.
This is the largest of a series of three paintings showing Lunia Czechowska wearing a cameo. Modigliani was strongly attracted to the refinement of the Zborowski's very distinguished friend, who is seen here seated, her hands on her knees. The background is thickly painted, like those of the portraits of the previous year; its fluctuating greys harmonize with Czechowska's sad gaze, the colour of her hair, and the charcoal grey of her skirt. A symphony in pure white, the collarless blouse is decorated with a cameo also found in the other two works in the series; it is the still point at the centre of the composition. This was no doubt one of the earliest portraits of Lunia, and Modigliani spells her name phonetically: Chakoska.
Jeanne Hebutterne with Necklace (1917)
This is one of the very first paintings that Modigliani made of Jeanne, whom he had met in late 1916. She is often described by friends as having two long tresses flowing down her back, but is here seen with her hair up. The dress she wears is also recorded in a photo; its fastening can be seen above her poncho. It was probably of her own design and making. Born in Meaux on April 6, 1989, Jeanne was from a petit bourgeois family - her father was an accountant - and lived in the 5th arrondissement, in Rue Amyot. Her brother Andre, two years older than Jeanne, was also a painter, and her parents could hardly refuse their daughter's artistic bent; she met Modigliani at the Academie Colarossi, and quickly became his partner. She stayed with him through good times and bad, living somewhat in the shadow of her man. Two years later Zborowski rented an apartment for them at 8 Rue de la Grande Chaumiere, but within a matter of months, both were dead: two days after Modigliani's death, on the night of January 25-26, 1920, Jeanne, nine-months pregnant with her second child, committed suicide. This painting, heavy with impasto, gives little indication of the portraits that were to follow in 1918-19. The latter show Modigliani's full mastery and are more fluid in their use of paint. But this one is intensely moving, marking as it does the advent of a shared passion that ended tragically.
Lunia Czechowska (1917)
This was the first Modigliani work to enter a French museum, which it did in 1923, having been exhibited the previous year at the Venice Biennale. Lunia Czechowska stated that she first met Modigliani in 1916. This must have been in November, since it was on the way out of the exhibition of the Lyre et Palette association in Rue Huyghens to which Zborowski had taken her. In 1917, while her husband was at the front, Czechowska was given refuge by Leopold Zborowski and his wife Hanka, in the huge apartment where they were living, at 3 Rue Joseph Bara. Her long, slender features made her one of Modigliani's favourite models for the remainder of his life, though their relationship remained Platonic. She was at first astonished by his fiery temperament: "He painted with such violence that the picture fell on his head while he was leaning forward to get a better look," she recounts. "I was terrified; he was embarrassed at having frightened me, and gave me a gentle look, then began to sing Italian songs to help me get over the incident." She was soon won over by the young painter's elegance and cultivation, and remained a devoted friend.
Woman in White Coat (1917)
This work, which belonged to Paul Guillaume and hung in his apartment, marks Modigliani's return to the portrait in 1917 after his series of nudes. It forms part of a group of which the most famous is perhaps Lady with Black Cravate. The model for that painting is thought to be Marietta Duc, a friend of Dr and Mme Louis Devraigne, whose portraits Modigliani also painted at the same period. A subtle harmony of curves - the arc of the eyebrows, the almond eyes, the enveloping hair, the collar raised almost to the chin, and the fall of the shoulders - softens the effect of the sharp nose, thin lips and pointed chin, itself softened by a humorous dimple. The pale ochre of the coat lightens the brown tonality of the whole. The first owner of this little portrait was the police superintendent Leon Zamaron (1872-1955). He was well-known to the penurious artists of Paris, whom he supported and aided with a passion, showing particular generosity to the foreigners among them. As a collector, he eventually owned more than five thousand works of modern art, all of which he lost at the gaming-table.
Little Girl in Blue (1918)
The large format of this masterpiece is not exceptional in Modigliani's work, though he normally used it only for adult models; for example, for the portraits of Zborowski, Mario Varvogli, and the three portraits of women in the Barnes Foundation collection: Young Redhead in Evening Dress, Young Woman in Blue, and Young Lady in Her Sunday Best. The model here, a little girl of eight to ten years, is shown almost life-size. The dress and the wall offer a subtle and tender study in blue, illuminated by the eyes and the large white ruff. Though the scene is all sweetness and innocence, there is nothing saccharine about it. The corner-based composition combines with the shadow and dark tiling to add a sense of depth, while the matching of boots and hair imparts a rhythm underlined by the red ribbon in which the girl's hair is bound. The painting was surely painted just before Modigliani left for Nice.
Pierre-Edouard Baranowksi (1918)
The painter Pierre-Edouard Baranowski, known as Bara, was a member of the Parisian Polish colony. A habitue of the Montparnasse cafes in the 1920s, he presumably met Modigliani through the latter's friend and dealer, Leopold Zborowski, or perhaps through Moise Kisling. This is the only known portrait of Baranowski, who, between 1920 and 1929, frequently exhibited at the Salon d'Automne, the Salon des Tuileries and the Salon des Independants, showing flower paintings, still lifes and landscapes. The model, with his androgynous grace, occupies the entire space of the painting. The almost Mannerist preciousness of his pose - down-turned face, just a hint of a smile, left hand hanging limply and a Vartiste haircut - is tempered by the rigour of the colours: the black of the jacket and cravate, the light blue of the eyes and of the background, the dark blue of the trousers, and finally, the pallor of Baranowksi's skin, further emphasized by the white of his shirt.
Little Girl in Black Apron (1918)
A whole series of children appears in Modigliani's works of 1918. This is no coincidence: in the south of France he had neither portrait commissions nor the models that Zborowski had financed in Paris, and therefore gave himself free rein in choosing his subjects, painting both adults (Seated Man with Cane and The Grocer's Beautiful Wife) and children. Like any Italian born at the turn of the century, he had spent his early years amid families with many children, and these memories must have come vividly to mind when he depicted children in all their innocence and spontaneity. The wide-eyed little girl is a little stiff and awkward in her pose; in Two Little Girls she seems somewhat more relaxed. The black of her schoolgirl's smock is lightened by a little discreet embroidery at the bust. The book laid flat on the piece of furniture is the attribute of a sensible, studious child, adding a further horizontal to the lines that structure the composition: the seams of the smock, the drawers of the chest, and the picture rail on the wall.
Young Girl in Beret (1918)
This is one of a pair of paintings using the same model. The format here is similar, but Modigliani reduces the spectator's field of vision, closes the second leaf of the door that stands ajar in the background, and catches the girl's pigtails up under the black hat, whose severity attracts the eye and contrasts with the child's fresh skin. The result is a much more achieved and successful work than the Nagoya portrait. The chair, slightly right of centre, the pale brown panelling, whose mouldings form a second frame within the picture, the softer grey-green of the background and the childish pink of the dress give this delicious portrait a real feeling of intimacy. In the Nagoya portrait, the child's chignon is tied at her ear with a black ribbon; here, the ribbon is a brilliant flash of white projecting below the hat, picking up the white of the still rather uneven teeth in the child's shy smile.
Leopold Zborowski (1918)
This Zborowski is very different from the man portrayed in 1916. Stylized and as if rejuvenated, he remains perfectly identifiable, but Modigliani's methods are now more refined: the model is adapted to meet the criteria imposed by the painter, who purifies and sublimates his character without any attempt to compensate by some putative realism. By dint of simplification, he attains an idealized, almost romantic representation of the young poet that Zborowski had been on his arrival in Paris. Any risk of solemnity is eliminated by the open collar, incongruous as it is with Zborowski's own style of impeccable formality. And around the very youthful face, with its Christ-like beard, there is a halo of grey-blue light. The strength and subtlety of this portrait are all in the contrast with the heavily worked background, which plays on the scale of grey-green. Was Modigliani here representing an ideal Zborowski, the poet, the perfect dealer and colleague?
Red Haired Girl (1915)
Can this really be Jeanne Hebuterne, whose very pale blue eyes were quite unlike the dark gaze of the model here? The charm and intimacy exhaled by the painting might nevertheless suggest an idealized portrait. On the other hand, this is certainly the woman that Modigliani painted at least twice and perhaps three times in 1918, on canvases of similar format; she is distinguished by her red hair and long nose. Modigliani rarely contrived to express such tenderness: in three-quarter profile, the young woman turns towards us in a pose of natural elegance, captivating us with her enveloping gaze. The purity of the oval face and the brilliance of her completely unbound hair complete a durable vision of fresh and intimate spontaneity.
Jeanne Hebuterne (1918)
Painted in 1918, probably in Nice, this little profile is related to two larger works. In both of these Jeanne is seated in profile, and wears the same hairstyle, in which her sumptuous auburn locks are piled up high, as if in a medieval hennin. To paint this little profile portrait - the pose is infrequent in his work - Modigliani simply moved closer to his model, placing her in front of the door that serves as a backdrop in each of the three paintings. There is a suggestion of intimacy in some of the details of this work: the neck is given a less Mannerist treatment, and the stray locks that have escaped her chignon are not the luminous russet-red seen in the other two works, but a more prosaic chestnut-brown.
Jeanne Hebuterne in Large Hat (1918)
Haloed by the broad brim of her hat, like a Sienese-school saint, Jeanne adopts the pensive pose in which Modigliani painted Lunia Czechowska two years later. There is no trace of shadow; the ochreous, summery light seems to emanate directly from the model, and more particularly from the bare outlines of her eyes. There is a notable contrast of texture in the picture; the smooth paint of the face and bust suggest the sweetness and harmony of the sitter, who stands out against a much denser impasto ground. The painting has a less successful companion-piece in which Jeanne is also portrayed, seen closer-up, bust-length and without the hat.
The Young Apprentice (1918)
This picture of a young apprentice or peasant is a pretext for a camaieu study in grey, green, beige and russet brown, illuminated only by the white of the collar-less shirt. Thanks to the brushwork, which is typical of Modigliani's 1918 works, the scene is all calm and simplicity. The modesty of the boy's status is evident in the wear at the knees of his trousers; his young, smooth round face contrasts with his stubby, red, right hand. The same model, wearing a hat, was painted in a slightly different pose and in lighter tones for Young Peasant, a canvas of the same dimensions. Alas, nothing is known of these chance models. The subtlety of Modigliani's art, allied to the spectator's gaze, transforms them into eternal archetypes.
Young Man (Student) (1919)
Bust-length portraits of young men are rare in Modigliani, who preferred to paint them seated and almost full-length. The identity of the model is unknown, though Modigliani also painted him standing up (Red-Haired Young Man), consistent in this with his habit of painting the same model in two different forms. Could it perhaps be a member of the family of Dr Raymond-Jacques Sabouraud (1864-1938), a dermatologist at the Saint-Louis hospital and occasional painter and sculptor? Sabouraud, Modigliani's first known landlord in the south, was a major collector of modern painting, whose son Emile (1900-1996) took up painting as a career. This portrait featured in two famous exhibitions, those of Brussels (1933) and Basel (1934), before falling into something like oblivion; it reappeared at the end of World War II in the collection of the Guggenheim Museum. Immensely authoritative in its hieratic elegance and strict economy of palette, the work is lit up by the russet-brown of the hair set against a luminous halo. The background, worked in nervous strokes of grey-green and framed by the door-jamb on the left, is typical of the period.
The Zouave (1919)
"They considered themselves duty-bound to embody the virtues of French infantry. They were incomparable soldiers." Thus General Daugan, in 1918, describing the Zouaves, an elite army corps of Algerian recruits founded shortly after the conquest of Algeria, in 1830, by General de Lamoriciere. The archives of the Galerie Bignou state: "painted in Nice in 1918", where the Zouave was no doubt on leave. He wears the "mustard" uniform and calotte which had been regulation issue for "armee d'Afrique" soldiers since 1916. On the calotte, from which the traditional blue tassel is missing, we see the crescent moon and the figure three, which refers to his regiment. He seems to exhibit three decorations: the Legion d'Honneur and Croix de Guerre frame the Medaille Militaire, the latter apparently painted with a certain artistic licence. The identity of the model is again unknown. Assuredly a fearless combatant, this very young man offered Modigliani the occasion for a study in colours, gaining archetypal status in the process.
Roger Dutilleul (1919)
"There is no such thing as abstract or figurative, there is just good painting", remarked Roger Dutilleul (1873-1956). It was a fine motto for this daring collector, who accumulated some fifteen Modiglianis, and dozens of works by artists such as Braque, Derain, Vlaminck, Picasso, Matisse, Leger, and Miro. He was a grand bourgeois, a refined man and, like Paul Guillaume, a true lover - "from the heart" - of the avant-garde. His earliest purchases were made at very low prices. When he met Daniel-Henri Kahnweiler in 1907 - a decisive friendship for his artistic tastes - he could not afford to buy Cezannes, which were already astronomically expensive. Having spotted some Modiglianis at Paul Guillaume's gallery, he was offered others by the frame-maker and art-dealer Constant Lepoutre, who introduced him to Zborowski. "Zbo" then sold him all the works by Modigliani that he had in stock, and eventually suggested he sit for the artist. This is, then, a portrait of historic importance. The format is that of the great portraits of Modigliani's maturity; the collector's pose is all aristocratic elegance, similar to that of the 1909 portrait of Modigliani's first patron, Paul Alexandre. Ten years later, the muted colour, very thin paint and slightly inclined head capture the benevolent authority of Modigliani's second great collector. The portrait was painted in three sessions totalling seven and a half hours.
Pink Blouse (1919)
The Tyrian pink of the blouse here, a colour Modigliani rarely used even with adult models, illuminates the scene with unexpected brilliance. This portrait has a pair, of the same dimensions and from the same period, in which a black-haired young woman, wearing a dark grey skirt and a black shawl and scarf, poses in front of the same white-covered, iron bedstead and the same little painting on the wall. Here the opulent blond hair of the woman, the bright pink bodice and the chequered skirt give the whole work a more airy feel.
Jeanne Hebuterne 2 (1919)
In the last winter of his life, Modigliani painted Jeanne in two pictures of identical format. In both, she is seated. In the first, she is seen bust-length, with a round-necked bodice, and a bedhead prominent in the background. Here she is seen almost full-length, seated, with her hands crossed on her knees; she was now pregnant for the second time. Her dress is perhaps one that she made and designed herself, since short-sleeves and a broad, striped belt of similar kind appear in other paintings of her. The bed and bedside table underline the intimacy of the scene, bathed in a gentle, sunny luminescence incongruous with the tragic destiny of mother and baby.
This work is remarkable for a number of different reasons, notably for marking the last stylistic change in Modigliani's career, a matter of weeks before his death. Conceived as a return to impasto, and notably richer in colour, it nevertheless gives an overall monochrome impression. The rigid, sculptural quality of the work shows that Modigliani was acquainted not only with the works painted by Derain after his "return to order", but also with the most recent Picassos. This tendency, anticipated in the two "Burgundian women" here takes spectacular effect. A further striking aspect of this picture is its subject; it is the only known Modigliani of motherhood, if we except the two versions of Gypsy Woman with Child. The painting is also remarkable for its dimensions. The number of colours used is no less unusual: aside from black and white, Modigliani adds to his usual palette of brown, russet-red and grey-green, the ultramarine of the child's wrap, the bright green of its bonnet, the pink of the mother's neck-opening and the light blue of her eyes. In this rigorously constructed scene, everything combines to create balance and serenity. Yet the emotion it elicits is strictly aesthetic; the subjects are stiff, the baby doll-like, the mother like a popular Madonna, and there is no sense of interaction or tenderness. Modigliani has contrived a tour deforce, that of breathing life into archetypes, using nothing more than the vibration of the colours that establish his composition's timeless harmony. This magnificent painting - for which a preparatory drawing has survived - was one of the jewels of the Roger Dutilleul collection.
Portrait of Thora Klinckowstrom (1919)
This portrait of Thora and that of her friend, Annie Bjarne, are among the last ever painted by Modigliani; they date from November 1919. Thora, a young Swedish woman, had come to study art in Paris, chaperoned by her brother Harald. She met Modigliani at the Rotonde shortly after her arrival, in October 1919, having been taken there by her future husband, Nils Dardel. Modigliani drew her there and then, on squared paper provided by the cafe, adding a quotation from D'Annunzio. He then suggested that she should sit for him, and created a carte de visile from the back of a packet of Gitanes, on which he wrote his address, 8 Rue de la Grande Chaumiere. Despite the disorder of his studio and his negligent dress, Thora was much impressed by Modigliani's good looks and "beautiful, hot dark eyes". She was also struck by his persistent cough. For later sittings, Thora was accompanied by Annie Bjarne, whose portrait Modigliani also painted. Thora shortly afterwards married Nils Dardel, living in Paris with him for some thirteen years in a studio-apartment on Rue Lepic. Thora was a chance model for Modigliani, and she soon lost sight of the portrait, which she next heard of when it reappeared on the art market in the 1970s.
Young Man with Cap (1919)
The treatment of the young man's face rather resembles that accorded to the principal figure of Motherhood or to the Swedish friends Annie Bjarne and Thora Klinckowstrom. Exhibited in New York in 1931, the present painting was quickly acquired by a Detroit collector, who left it to the Institute of Art. The sitter wears a cap, as do the subjects of much earlier portraits of young men, for example, Young Peasant or The Young Apprentice, and is also of working-class origin (Seated Young Man). The very sculptural - almost Cubist - quality of this painting is reinforced by the oblique lines that traverse the background and create a sense of depth. It testifies to the changes Modigliani's style was undergoing in the weeks before his death; sculptural severity was returning to his work, along with a very specific range of colours.
This self-portrait is Modigliani's last work and a veritable testament. It is the only oil self-portrait by Modigliani known, if we except the Self-Portrait as Pierrot in Copenhagen, and a very small number of drawings. And though he lived in a milieu of artists who, like Soutine and Kisling, often painted those around them, there are, if we except a few drawings, no portraits of Modigliani by his friends. He was not afraid of having his likeness taken; there are many photos of him in which he poses, looking happy and remarkably modern. Was he afraid of the artist's gaze, of being interpreted by a painter, even if that painter were a friend? Modigliani devoted his entire life to portraiture, to the almost total exclusion of other genres, and the series of some hundred or so different faces that he represented constitutes a sort of composite portrait, the expression of his most inward perspective. Having so long refused to allow any painted image of himself, perhaps he felt, as his illness intensified and he knew that he was weakening, the need to leave this last and most personal testimony of his art. The profile pose is not usually found in his seated portraits, and is paralleled only in two profile portraits of the seated Jeanne Hebuterne. Modigliani turns a touching gaze on the spectator; his emaciated face already resembles the death mask taken a few weeks later by his devoted friend Lipchitz. The last harmonies of his brush on the palette in his hand, Modigliani forever incarnates the words he had spoken to Paul Alexandre some ten years before: "Happiness is a grave-faced angel".
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