Featured Artist: Amedeo Modigliani
Amedeo Modigliani was the epitome of a tragic artist. Born in Italy on July 12, 1884; he suffered considerably from childhood illnesses, the symptoms of which would persist throughout his life until his death from tuberculosis at age 35 in 1920. Although he initially studied art in both Florence and Venice, he later shunned his academic upbringing and willingly devolved into a poverty stricken vagabond. He was formally educated as a life painter in his teens, quickly developing a life-long infatuation with nudes. In 1902 he moved to Florence to study at the Academia di Belle Arti, at the “Free School of Nude Studies,” and a year later he moved to Venice as a fledgling artist, and it is said that it was where he smoked hashish for the first time. It was only after he discovered narcotics that he developed the philosophical belief that the only path to creativity was through defiance of social norms and disorder in life. Thus began a lifelong affliction with corrupted beauty, which would ultimately end with his untimely death and the suicide of his grief-stricken wife and their unborn child.
Modigliani contracted tuberculosis at an early age, and was constantly stricken by his deteriorated health, which may be one reason why he so willingly engaged in self-destructive behavior. Living in Paris, he had affairs with women, drank heavily, smoked hashish, and drank absinthe. In a drunken stupor, he would often strip naked at social gatherings. He was against all of the excesses of a Bourgeois lifestyle, and thus stripped them from his life, even destroying paintings that he had made in his earlier years
Although he purposely created a life in which chaos, poverty, and doom lurked in every corner, he was a prolific artist. He sketched furiously, sometimes drawing over 100 sketches in a day, but many of his works were either lost, given away, or in some cases, destroyed by Modigliani himself. His favorite subject was by far the human form, painting with such a unique style that its hard to correlate his work to any art movement of that time.
In 1906 Modigliani had settled in the Paris district of Montmartre. Modigliani’s early work, little of which survives, is clearly influenced by French artists such as Paul Gauguin, the Fauves, and Paul Cézanne (like many of his contemporaries, Modigliani was greatly impressed by the memorial exhibition of Cézanne at the Salon d’Automne in 1907. In 1909, Modigliani met and became close friends with the sculptor Constantin Brancusi, resulting in a several year period where he devoted himself to sculpture that was inspired predominantly by African, Egyptian, and ancient Etruscan and Greek sculpture.
With worsening health, Modigliani ultimately gave up sculpture, as his method of working directly with the stone was quite taxing, and devoted himself to painting. It was during this period that he developed his signature style: portraits and nudes that consistently depict elongated, simplified forms and masklike faces, often featuring blank eyes.
Many of his important works belong to museums, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; Barnes Foundation, Philadelphia; Tate Modern, London; and the Centre Pompidou, Paris. Because of his short life and limited period of artistic production, and also with his unique style Modigliani is a highly sought-after artist, resulting in an overall positive market for his works.