Monday, February 6, 2012

Spotlight on Amedeo Modigliani

This week's Artist spotlight is on the tragic figure of Amedeo Modigliani. His short life spanned the years from July 12th, 1884 through January 24th, 1920. Born in Livorno, Italy, he was the son of Sephardic Jews and came from a long line of intellectual scholars. Often sickly as a child, his mother tutored him at home for much of his younger years. It wasn't until 1898 that he began his formal training with Guglielmo Micheli, under which his interest and skill flourished.

Reclining Nude
Modigliani spent two years studying the Macchiaioli style (Italian landscape movement that pre-dated the French Impressionist movement) with Micheli, before taking ill with typhoid fever, which only got worse when he developed tuberculosis. During this time he lamented the thought that he would not get the chance to see the works of the master Renaissance artists in person. His mother promised that upon his recovery she would fulfill his dreams and to her word she was good. When he sufficiently recovered, they toured through Naples, Capri, Rome, Amalfi, Florence and Venice, where young Modigliani got a new artistic lease on life. By 1902, he enrolled in the Scuola Libera di Nudo in Florence, where his real artistic passion lay - portraiture, more specifically nude portraits. After a year, he transferred to Venice, where he continued his studies, but was introduced to a life that ultimately would be his demise, that of drugs and alcohol. It seemed a natural step at that point for him to make the move to Paris and in 1906 he arrived in Montmartre.

Stone Head
Life in Paris was nothing, if not exciting. Modigliani threw himself into his art, sometimes producing upwards of a hundred sketches per day. He was heavily into drugs, alcohol and whatever other excesses he could get into, in part to mask the symptoms of his tuberculosis. After returning home in 1909 for a brief respite from his life of excess, he returned to Paris and settled in Montparnasse. It was at this point that his main focus turned to sculpture and he spent the next five years creating art out of whatever materials he could get, namely scavenged building materials from Paris's building boom. He continued to live a bohemian existence that saw him usually intoxicated and/or in the company of the women he loved to depict so often. The outbreak of World War I made building materials harder to come by though and with his worsening physical state, Modigliani returned to painting as his medium.

Jeanne Hbuterne, Left Arm Behind her Head 
During the last years of his life, Modigliani created some of his most remarkable paintings. His life of excess continued, but so too did his creativity. He created distinctive paintings of children, in part due to the fact that he had become a father himself. Jeanne Hbuterne, the mother of his daughter, moved with him to Nice, when wartime made life in Paris too difficult . They returned to Paris in 1919, but by that point Modigliani's health had deteriorated to dangerous levels. He continued to drink, do drugs and paint, but there was little to conceal his ill health. In early January 1920, Modigliani took to his bed and the doctors announced there was nothing to be done. His tuberculosis finally caught up to him, and on January 24th, 1920, the young artist died. Sadly, Hbuterne was so distraught by his death that she took her own life, and in the process, the life of her unborn child.

On Saturday February 11th, Budding Artists will take a look at this Master Artist in our Children's Art Workshops at the London Farmer's Market. Join us at 10am and 1pm, as we look at this talented artist who created incredible portraits, sculptures and more in his few short years. There will be 90 minutes of art history, games, creativity and fun, as we explore this next artist in our Masters Series - Amedeo Modigliani.


  1. Replies
    1. @Patty Palmer: It is, isn't it. Thank you so much for taking the time to enjoy the article! :)

    2. Thanks, really nice ! Love his paintings, the music you picked is very fitting :)