Amedeo Modigliani - Galleria d'arte - Galleria dello scudo

Amedeo Modigliani

    Modigliani, Amedeo (Livorno 1884 – Paris 1920).
    In Livorno in 1898 he began to study at the painting school of Guglielmo Micheli, a pupil of Fattori, after having given up his high school studies as a result of a pulmonary illness that, after a relapse, led him in 1901 to convalesce in southern Italy.
    In 1902 he enrolled at the academy of fine art in Florence where he followed Fattori’s lessons in life drawing, at the same time sharing his studio with Oscar Ghiglia with whom he took part in the city’s artistic activities, together with Costetti, Gemignani, Lloyd, Sacchetti, and Andreotti. In 1903 he went to the academy in Venice. Like Alfredo Müller and other painters from Livorno at the time, he tried to supersede the by-now tired heredity of the Macchia artists and became interested in the innovations of the Secessionist movement. He moved away from his home city and, in 1906, he settled in Paris where, even though getting to know the Fauves, Cubism, Japanese art, and the painting of Klimt and Toulouse-Lautrec, he was particularly influenced by Cézanne (Mendicante di Livorno and Violoncellista, 1909-1910).
    In 1907 he met Paul Alexandre who bought some of his paintings and found him a studio. He became a member of the Société des Artistes Independants and began to exhibit: five oils and a drawing at the 1908 Salon; six paintings at the Salon des Independants in 1910; and seven sculptures at the 1912 Salon d’Automne, where de Chirico, Arturo Martini, and Gino Rossi also exhibited. In 1909 Alexandre had presented him to Brancusi who introduced him to art nègre and encouraged him to make sculpture, to which he was to devote himself until 1913, and which he had already undertaken during his stay in Livorno in 1909. Apart from art nègre, his studies of Egyptian art at the Louvre this period must also have had some importance.
    In 1914 he met the English poet Beatrice Hastings, who became his companion for two years, and Paul Guillaume, his client and the subject of one of his most famous portraits (1916; Milan, Galleria Civica d’Arte Moderna). In this year he began to paint again with an experimental phase influenced by Seurat (portraits of Diego Rivera and Frank Havilland). After 1914 he was attracted by Picasso’s neo classicism but in 1915, influenced by Art Nouveau lines and with the resurgence of fourteenth and fifteenth century Italian culture, his style developed free from any external cultural stimuli and tended towards a search for pure beauty and the creation of limpid forms, together with an acute colour sense derived from his Tuscan training.
    In 1915 he worked for a short time with the merchant Chéron and then for Lèopold Zborowski in 1916 who, as a friend and dealer, was to become a lynchpin for his desperate existence. In fact, in 1917 he organised Modigliani’s first solo show at the Berthe Weill gallery where, however, he did not sell a single painting because the large nudes exhibited caused a scandal and had to be withdrawn from the windows. A second and more fortunate show was organised by Zborowski at the Hill Gallery, London, in 1919. At the end of 1917 he began a relationship with the young Jeanne Hébourterne, with whom Modigliani went to Nice and Cannes as a result of his bad health; it was in Cannes, in 1919, that their daughter Jeanne was born: she was to devote her life to cataloguing her father’s work. Modigliani died young, just when his art, besides his original language, had begun to have a favourable reception from the public. Since then his work has become famous, and a first step in this development was a posthumous show at the 1922 Venice Biennale.

    Lia Bernini in La pittura in Italia. Il Novecento (1900-1945), Milan, 1997.