Today’s guest post is from Joanna, a writer for Arcadian Lighting, a must-shop resource for beautiful light fixtures. Her post is about one of her favorite painters (She has three of his prints hanging in her living room). There is just something about a Modigliani, even his nemisis Picasso couldn’t deny it. Enjoy the post!
Modigliani: Windows to the Soul
“When I know your soul, I will paint your eyes.” – Amedeo Modigliani
Once you’ve seen the work of Amedeo Modigliani, you will be able to easily identify it amongst other works of art. The Italian born artist, who spent the majority of his life in France, had a unique and highly stylized approach to painting. Elongated forms, mask-like features and the eerie blank eyes of many of his portraits combine to create haunting, yet sensual images. Modigliani’s faces reveal the influence of his study of sculpture and African masks, both media that lack a detail focus on the eyes.
Born to a Jewish family in Livorno, Italy, Modigliani studied throughout his homeland, focusing on life drawings and nudes. He was influenced by his study of the humanism of the Italian Renaissance. Like many artists of the late 19th century, he migrated to Paris where he took up residence in the Monmatre neighborhood populated with bohemians and starving artists.
His contemporaries in Paris were Juan Gris, Picasso, Toulouse Lautrec, Utillo and others; the big names of modern art in the early 20th century. Unlike many of his contemporaries, Modigliani refused to be boxed into a label such as Cubism, Dadaism, Surrealism, or Futurism.
In 1917, Modigliani met nineteen year old art student, Jeanne Hebuterne, who would become his common law wife and mother of his daughter. She became his muse and his portraits of her filled his oeuvre from 1917 until his death in 1920. This early portrait, Jeanne Hebuterne with Hat, from 1917 shows Modigliani’s infamous blank eyes. Relying on gestures and other features to convey personality, Modigliani’s portraits are highly stylized, almost caricatures.You can see the influence of African art, specifically masks, in Modigliani’s work. Similar mask-like faces can be seen in Picasso’s earlier work, Les Demoiselles d’Avignon (1907).
While many of his portraits of Hebuterne have the classic mask-like blank eyes typical of his later portraits, there are a few where you feel that there is a soul behind the mask. The 1919 portrait, Jeanne Hebuterne in a Scarf, is one of a minority that clearly depicts the subject’s eyes. Perhaps it was at this time that Modigliani felt he truly knew her soul.
Modigliani had his one and only solo exhibition in 1917 but continued to show in group shows both in France and later in England. In 1919 his work was shown at the autumn Salon in Paris. Suffering from tuberculosis since the age of 16, Modigliani hid his illness behind alcoholism and drug addiction.While other contemporaries, such as Picasso, were receiving critical and commercial success, Modigliani died, penniless from tubercular meningitis in 1920. Hebuterne committed suicide the next day.
Peter Schjeldahl, American art critic, poet, and educator, says of Modiglianiís work, “I recall my thrilled first exposure, as a teenager, to one of his long-necked women, with their piquantly tipped heads and mask-like faces. The rakish stylization and the succulent color were easy to enjoy, and the payoff was sanguinely erotic in a way that endorsed my personal wishes to be bold and tender and noble.”
Thanks to Arcadian Lighting for providing today’s post and please visit their website to learn more about this company that specializes in top quality lighting fixtures at extremely affordable prices. Come visit us today!