Modigliani at Bateau-Lavoir, 1915

Amedeo Modigliani /   Amedeo Clemente Modigliani

Italy 1884 - 1920

Sculpture, Painting

Amedeo Modigliani
Amedeo Clemente Modigliani
April 22, 2016

Being an epitome of a tragic artist, Amedeo Modigliani had a life-long affliction with deviant beauty. This Italy-born artist was all his life subordinated by his fragile health, which was probably the reason for his self-destructive behavior. Dismissing his academic upbringing, he has willingly accepted the life of the poor vagabond. After he discovered narcotics, he believed that the only way to initiate the creativity was to violate social norms and live disturbed life. Living in Paris, the artistic center of that time, Modigliani widely exploited the dark side of the big city, drunk absinthe a lot, smoked hashish and had numerous affairs with women. Although he intentionally created chaotic and problematic life conditions, he was a productive artist. Sometimes sketching even 100 drawings in a day, his numerous works are lost or destroyed in his madness attacks. Favoring the form of the human body, his work is recognizable by elongations and mask-like faces, but the uniqueness of his expression is so unlike any other of his time, that makes it impossible to be classified with any specific style.

Amedeo Modigliani - Woman's Head, 1915, photo credits - Piere Riverdy, 1915, photo credits home modigliani amedeo italian page
Amedeo Modigliani – Woman’s Head, 1915, photo credits / Piere Riverdy, 1915, photo credits

Classical Art as Therapy and Cure

Born as a fourth child in a Jewish family which had to declare bankruptcy just before his birth, Modigliani was specially connected to his mother who had a crucial role in his ability to pursue art as a vocation. Modigliani was dedicated to drawing and painting from the early age, thought himself as an artist even before beginning formal studies. After being diagnosed with tuberculosis in 1901, his mother took him to recovery trip where they have visited museums in Naples, Rome, Florence and Venice, admiring to classical art. Two years later, Modigliani moved to Florence to study figure drawing in Scuola Libera di Nudo, and then to Venice where he attended the Instituto di Belle Arti. It is in Venice where he for the first time felt the magic of life on drugs and alcohol, which courage him to move to Paris.

His work is recognizable by elongations and mask-like faces

Amedeo Modigliani - Head (left) - Head of a Woman, 2012 (right), photo credits home italian page modigliani portrait nude works paul
Amedeo Modigliani – Head (left) / Head of a Woman, 2012 (right), photo credits

Paris: The Artistic Paradise

In 1906 Modigliani finally became a part of the artistic commune in the Montmartre, showing the influences of then already recognized artists Paul Cezanne and Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec. Rejecting artistic conventions, his style became a fusion of his earlier traditional knowledge and products of association with Pablo Picasso, Juan Gris and poet Max Jacob. But despite his dedication, a 1906 exhibition of three paintings in Laura Wylda Gallery failed to sell or even get interested people to Modigliani’s work. He was forced to haunt galleries door to door, sometimes trading his pieces for food. His failure took him deeper into the world of drugs and alcohol, provoking the further worsening of his health. After receiving no attention in the twenty-fourth Salon des Independants, he decided to refocus on sculpture. The simple elegance and purity of form of his sculptural pieces reveal the borrowed elements from primitive arts, as well as the strong impression with Constantin Brancusi’s work.

His style became a fusion of his earlier knowledge and products of association with Picasso and Gris

Amedeo Modigliani - Nude on a White Cushion, 1917, photo credits portrait nude works paul amedeo modigliani page
Amedeo Modigliani – Nude on a White Cushion, 1917, photo credits

Solo Show, For the First and For the Last Time

His problems became more bearable in 1914 when Max Jacob introduced him to the art dealer Paul Guillaume whom he had sold several paintings with an agreement to promote his art. But the expansion of the World War II brought the new difficult situations and his poor health again got worse. Despite everything, during this time Modigliani created a couple of his finest works. Returning to painting portraits, he transferred the bold line and geometric abstraction from his sculptures. His association with Polish poet and art dealer Leopold Zborowski resulted with his first and only solo show during his lifetime. The exhibition has been held at Berthe Weill Gallery in late 1917, representing 30 female nudes in his new, original style. In order to attract the audience, Weill installed one of the paintings into the front window, which provoked the local police to shut down the exhibition. Still, unintended publicity led to an unexpected better sale.

Later portraits have a bold line and geometric abstraction transferred from the sculpture

Amedeo Modigliani - Jeanne Hebuterne with Hat and Necklace, photo credits (left) - Portrait of Jeanne Hebuterne, 1918, photo credits (right) modigliani amedeo page
Amedeo Modigliani – Jeanne Hebuterne with Hat and Necklace, photo credits (left) / Portrait of Jeanne Hebuterne, 1918, photo credits (right)

Jeanne Hebuterne: Love, Passion and Inspiration

Several months earlier, he had met a young art student Jeanne Hebuterne, who became his wife and main inspiration for the rest of his life. The portraits of his new muse show softer lines and brighter palette, reflecting a more peaceful state of mind. Next year they had a daughter named for her mother. In accordance with his deal with Zborowski, his productivity was increased and Modigliani became more confident in his work. Yet, his health is definitely started to fail, till he died of tubercular meningitis on January 24, 1920, at age 35. Holding him for the last moment, Hebuterne couldn’t accept the fact and, despite being nine months pregnant, she threw herself from the fifth floor of their Parisian apartment, killing herself and their unborn child.

Jeanne Hebuterne became his main inspiration for the rest of his life

Amedeo Modigliani - Woman Reclining on a Bed, 1911, photo credits artfundorg modigliani
Amedeo Modigliani – Woman Reclining on a Bed, 1911, photo credits

Tragic Destiny and Posthumous Fame

Unfortunately, the failure and problems were the only things Amadeo Modigliani got to meet during his lifetime, but his name still found the recognition and today, he is among the celebrated artists whose paintings reach incredible prices. There are several biographers who are dedicated to exploring his unusual nature and tree featured movies that portray him as a passionate individual with self-destructive lifestyle. His life was tragic from the very beginnings, until the end that affected not only him but his wife, unborn child and little daughter who lost her parents. However, his importance and the great contribution to the history of modern art are finally attributed to this extraordinary artist.

Featured image: Artist portrait (detail), photo via
All images used for illustrative purpose only

YearExhibition titleGallery/MuseumSolo/Group
2016Impressionist and Modern. Masterworks from The Phillips CollectionPalazzo delle Esposizioni, RomeGroup
2016A Passionate Eye: The Weiner Family CollectionPalm Springs Art MuseumGroup
2015500 Years of Italian Master Drawings from the Princeton University Art MuseumMeadows Museum, DallasGroup
2015Modigliani E La Bohème Di ParigiCivic Gallery of Modern and Contemporary Arts, Turin Solo
2015Cézanne and the Modern: Masterpieces of European Art from the Pearlman CollectionPrinceton University Art Museum, PrincetonGroup
2015Cézanne and the Modern: Masterpieces of European Art from the Pearlman CollectionVancouver Art GalleryGroup
2014The Great Upheaval: Modern Masterpieces from the Guggenheim CollectionArt Gallery of Ontario, TorontoGroup
20131913: The Year of ModernismPrinceton University Art Museum, PrincetonGroup
2013Van Gogh, Dalí and Beyond: The World ReimaginedArt Gallery of Western Australia, PerthGroup
2012Heckel, Kirchner, Nolde: The Werner CollectionAlbertina Museum, ViennaGroup
2012From De Chirico to Cattelan: A Survey of 20th Century Italian ArtBen Brown Fine Arts, LondonnnGroup
2011An Encounter in ParisJewish Historical Museum, AmsterdamGroup
2011Amedeo ModiglianiVernon Galerie, PragueSolo
2010Gaze: Portraiture after IngresNorton Simon Museum of Art, PasadenaGroup
2010Manet to Picasso: Masterpieces from the Philadelphia Museum of ArtTaipei Fine Arts Museum, TaipeiGroup
2009Amedeo ModiglianiKunst- und Ausstellungshalle der Bundesrepublik Deutschland, BonnSolo
2008Rubens to Corot: The Delacorte GiftNorton Museum of Art, West Palm BeachGroup
2008Modigliani and his timeMuseo Thyssen-Bornemisza, MadridGroup
1971Amedeo ModiglianiAcquavella Gallery, New YorkSolo
1959Amedeo ModiglianiContemporary arts center, CincinnatiSolo
1958Amedeo ModiglianiGalerie Charpentier, ParisSolo
1951Amedeo ModiglianiMuseum of Modern art, ClevelandSolo
1946Amedeo ModiglianiCasa della cultura, MilanSolo
1945Amedeo ModiglianiGalerie de France, ParisSolo
1945Amedeo ModiglianiGalerie Claude, ParisSolo
1939Amedeo ModiglianiAlex Reid & Lefevre, LondonSolo
1938Amedeo ModiglianiArthur Tooth, LondonSolo
1934Amedeo ModiglianiKunsthalle, BaselSolo
1933Amedeo ModiglianiPalais de Beaux arts, BrusselsSolo
1931Amedeo ModiglianiDemotte Galleries, New YorkSolo
1930Unknown17th Biennale, VeniceGroup
1929Amedeo ModiglianiDe Hauke, New YorkSolo
1926Amedeo ModiglianiGrand Central Art Galleries, New YorkSolo
1925Amedeo ModiglianiGalerie Bing, ParisSolo
1922Amedeo ModiglianiNew Gallery, New YorkSolo
1922Amedeo ModiglianiGalerie Bernheim-Jeunne, ParisSolo
1921Amedeo ModiglianiGalerie L'eveque, ParisSolo
1919French art 1914-1919Mansard Gallery, LondonGroup
1919UnknownHill Gallery, LondonGroup
191912 th Salon d'AutonomneGrand Palais, ParisGroup
1918Peintres d'Aujourd'HuiGallerie Paul GulliaumeGroup
1917Amedeo ModiglianiGalerie Berthe Weill, ParisSolo
1917Ausstellung von GraphicGalerie Dada, ZurichGroup
1916Cabaret VoltaireCabaret Voltaire, ZurichGroup
1916SculptureModern Gallery, New YorkGroup
191420TH CT. ART: A REVIEW OF MODERN MOVEMENTSWhitechappel Gallery, LondonGroup
1911UnknownSTUDIO OF SOUZA CARDOSO, ParisGroup
1907SALON D' AUTOMNE, 5THGrand Palais, ParisGroup