Monday, 11 December 2017



Thanks for visiting.

The last of this year's art talks was about Amedeo Modigliani, to tie in with the Tate's exhibition.

Born in Livorno, Italy in 1884, Modigliani was the youngest of four children, his Jewish parents had been wealthy but were undergoing financial problems at the time of his birth.  He was particularly close to his Mother, who educated him at home until he was 10. He then suffered from pleurisy, typhoid fever and tuberculosis which would reoccur as tuberculor meningitus when he was 35 to cause his death.

He wanted to be an artist from age 13 and was encouraged by his Mother, who engaged the best artist in town, Gugliemo Micheli, to train him.  She also took him on a tour of Italian cities to recuperate from his illnesses, where he could see artworks.  He studied in Venice with Fabio Mauroner and went to Paris where he was influenced by Toulouse Lautrec, Cezanne, Brancusi's egg sculptures, Guro tribal masks and Picasso, who had a collection if African sculptures which may have also inspired him.

Chaim Soutine 1916-17

Dr Paul Alexandre, his first patron, opened a communal studio in Monmartre for artists, where he met others like Chaim Soutine. By 1909 he produced the work that he wanted, not linked to any artistic movement.  He spent a lot of time drawing and preparing for his paintings but once started, finished the work quite quickly.  Hardly any of his early works remain as he destroyed them.

Woman's Head 1912

He was undecided as to whether to concentrate on sculpture or painting. There are only 25 of his sculptures - 23 heads, 1 standing and 1 caryatid left.  His sculptures were made from scavenged limestone but he abandoned his sculpture making due to his bad health and concentrated on painting.

Reclining Nude 1917

Art dealers Paul Guillame and Leopold Zborowski were important, the latter encouraged him to tackle nudes, even providing the models and paying for them.  Modigliani was not linked with the women.  He was to have just one solo exhibition of his nudes at the Gallerie B. Weill, which happened to be opposite a police station, but the exhibition was closed down for its indecency and obscenity as the women were portrayed as real women rather than the classical nudes that were acceptable at the time.

Jacques and Berthe Lipchitz 1916

He was part of an artistic/literary set which included Renoir, Picasso, Diego Rivera, Jaques Lipchitz, Jean Cocteau and Juan Gris.

The women in his life included Beatrice Hastings, Anna Akhmatova and his beloved Jeanne Hebuterne, with whom he had a daughter.  Sadly on his death, Jeanne pregnant with another child, jumped out of a fifth-floor window with grief, and died at only 21, along with her unborn child.

Jeanne Hebuterne 1919
Jeanne Hebuterne in a Large Hat 1918

Modigliani is considered one of the greatest artists of the 20th Century but has been forgotten/neglected.  His distinctive style of portraiture shows frontal, long, mask-like faces with long necks, almond eyes, long nose attached to the eyebrows and small mouths but even though faces are simplified, he was good at capturing the personality.  He concentrated on the face with less detail on the rest of the picture.

These are my notes from the talk with pictures from the internet.

Roll on next November for some more talks!



  1. One of my favourite artists, he had such a short, sad life but he left behind something wonderful. I'm glad he is being recognised again with the Tate exhibition:)

    1. He achieved a lot considering all the awful illnesses he had to cope with.

  2. He definitely had a style all his own, not my favorite, but very interesting.

    1. His paintings must have seemed quite strange at the time.

  3. I like the artist's distinctive style especially those long faces. I can understand why you're looking forward to further talks next year.

    1. I wonder what will be on the cards next year. I'll have to remember to book myself in early as it's getting quite popular.