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Published by Stefan Zaric

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Categories:Topics, Art & Design
Published by: Stefan Zaric on Feb 12, 2012
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial


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This guide is given out free to teachers andstudents with an exhibition ticket and studentor teacher ID atthe Education Desk.It is available to other visitors from theRAShop at a cost of£3.95 (whilestocks last).
The funeral of Amedeo Modigliani (1884–1920) at the Père LachaiseCemetery in Paris was attended by the elite and notorious of theParisian art world, including Pablo Picasso (1881–1973), ConstantinBrancusi (1876–1957) and André Derain (1880–1954), amongsthundreds of others. The price of Modigliani’s art increased tenfoldalmost overnight, and collectors reportedly solicited mourners for hispaintings and drawings even as the cortège progressed along thefuneral route. Montparnasse policemen, the very same who hadrepeatedly arrested him during his many nights of drunken and drug-addled debauchery, lined the streets of the procession, paying theirrespects to the dead artist and allegedly trying to acquire his work forthemselves. Picasso remarked, not without irony, ‘Do you see?Nowheis avenged.’Only an extraordinary life and body of work could have producedsuch fanfare and spectacle at its premature end. Stories abound aboutModigliani’s excessive entanglement with women, drugs and alcohol,and coupled with myriad posthumous written accounts of his life, theyhave created a mythology that makes separating the fiction from thefact of his life nearly impossible. The major focus of his work, and theemphasis of this exhibition, is on portraits, generally of his friends,contemporaries and mistresses. These bear strong likeness to theirsubjects, yet they are unmistakably ‘Modiglianis’: stylised, formalisedand, for the most part, devoid of any analysis of the sitters. At a timewhen modernism, whose foundation was built on the autonomy ofform and colour, was redefining art, and its followers deciding what artwas to become, Modigliani stayed firmly tied to the past, as well as tohis present, and created his iconic portraits with their elongated necks,oval faces and blank, almond-shaped eyes.
Amedeo Clemente Modigliani was born in Livorno on 12 July 1884, thefourth child of a middle-class, intellectual, Sephardic Jewish family. Hisfather Flaminio was of Roman descent and his mother, Eugenia Garsin,Marseillaise, with Tunisian and Spanish ancestry. She taught Amedeoimpeccable French, and his background gave him a sophisticatedcosmopolitanism that would later appeal to the Parisian art world.Modigliani’s family were liberal-minded and unconventional, andalthough almost destitute at the time of his birth – bad business dealsand failed commercial prospects had bankrupted both the Modiglianiand Garsin families – all four children went on to achieve success asadults. Umberto became a mining engineer and Margherita a Frenchteacher. Emmanuele, their eldest brother, had a brilliant law career,ultimately becoming leader of Italy’s Socialist party and Mussolini’s
‘I am … trying to formulate,with the greatest lucidity, thetruths of art and life I havediscovered scattered amongthe beauties of Rome. Astheir inner meaning becomesclear to me, I will seek toreveal and to rearrange theircomposition, in order tocreate out of it my truth oflife, beauty and art.’
An Introductionto the Exhibitionfor Teachers and Students
Written by Lindsay Rothwell
Education Department © Royal Academy of Arts
Sackler Galleries8 July–15 October 2006
Detail of Cat. 14
Female Nude 
The Samuel Courtauld Trust, Courtauld Instituteof Art Gallery, London
Detail of Cat. 13
Paul Guillaume Seated 
, 1916
Civico Museo d’Arte Contemporanea, Milan
Designed by Isambard Thomas, LondonPrinted by Burlington
characteristics of both his sculptural and painted work, as we will seeinhis caryatid paintings, nudes and portraits.In 1902, at the age of 17, Modigliani enrolled at the Scuola liberadiNudo (Free School of the Nude) of the Accademia di Belle Arti inFlorence, and he often visited the Pitti Palace and the Uffizi. His passionfor making art was absolute, and he wrote to his Livorno friend andfellow artist Oscar Ghiglia of ‘his total dedication to the supremevocation that drives [me] compulsively to paint, and to paint in joy’.Significantly he visited Carrara and began experimenting with stonecarving, which was to be an overriding passion and influencethroughout his life. Modigliani continued his classical training forthenext three years, studying at the Scuola libera di Nudo in Venicebefore moving to Paris in early 1906.
Paris in the early twentieth century was the thriving and cosmopolitancentre of the art world. The avant-garde were shaping art’s future andimmeasurably changing its purpose and direction. Modigliani firstmoved to Montmartre, the 18th arrondissement, and for a time livedand worked in a now-famous building called the Bateau-Lavoir – sonamed because of its resemblance to a boat of laundry women. Hisneighbours in the squalid apartment block were the future titans oftheart and literary world, including painters Pablo Picasso and JuanGris (1887–1927) and writer Max Jacob (1876–1944), who togetherexperimented with and created modernism. Picasso –in partnership with George Braque (1882–1963) –invented Cubism allegedly in his Bateau-Lavoir studioand painted what is now one of the seminal worksofmodern art,
Les Demoiselles d’Avignon 
(1907)(Museum of Modern Art, New York).Modigliani maywell have seen it and, if so, would certainly have beeninfluenced by its African-inspired primitivism and thefigures’ mask-like eyes and long noses.Before Cubism began to make its mark on his work,however, Modigliani was influenced by the paintingsof Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec (1864–1901) and EdvardMunch (1863–1944). Toulouse-Lautrec in particular,with his clear outlines and sensuous forms, was oneofthe first artists Modigliani encountered in Paris, andhis early paintings certainly reflect Lautrec’s influence.
Head of a Woman with Hat 
(fig. 2) is entirely ArtNouveau in style, with its fluid lines and organicshapes, and in no way does it hint at the stronggeometry that would later emerge in his work.
Fig. 1
Cycladic female statue ofthecanonical” type(Spedosvariety)Early Cycladic II period(2800–2300 BC)
N.P, GoulandrisFoundation – Museum ofCycladic Art, AthensN.P. GoulandrisCollection, no. 724
Fig. 2
Head of a Woman wearingahat,1907
William Young & Co., Boston, Massachusetts,USA / The Bridgeman Art Library
nemesis. In 1898, at the age of 26, he was convicted of anarchy andimprisoned for six months.Because of both families’ financial ruin, they were forced to move intogether, and Amedeo was home-schooled by his mother, who earneda small income for the family teaching English and French. Dedo, asAmedeo was affectionately known, became extremely close to hismaternal grandfather, Isaac Garsin, who was well-read, highly educatedand had a profound influence on Modigliani’s character. Isaac tookDedo on his first museum visits and introduced him to literature, poetryand meditation. Because of Dedo’s lack of schoolmates, Isaac was hisclosest childhood friend, and when he died in 1894, Amedeo suffereddeeply. He remained a loner and nonconformist for the rest of his life,both personally and in his art, and the notion of being an outsiderremained intrinsic to his nature and work.Eventually the family’s fortune increased somewhatand Modigliani was sent to the Ginnasio, wherehestudied classics but suffered his first attackofpleurisy. In 1898 he contracted typhoidfeverand was severely ill for weeks. During hisconvalescence, his aunt Laura encouraged him toread, and he was introduced to Dante, who becamea lifelong favourite and whose poetry he inscribedinseveral of his paintings.The delirium passed, and for the next twoyears Modigliani attended the studio of thepainter Guglielmo Micheli, himself a pupil ofGiovanni Fattori, former leader of the ItalianImpressionist movement. In 1900, however,Modigliani suffered a tubercular haemorrhageand became so extremely unwell that his doctorsconsidered his chance of survival highly unlikely.Against their wishes, his mother took him tosouthern Italy to convalesce, and they visitedNaples and Capri, making frequent visits tomuseums to see important works of ancient andclassical art. In the years from 1910 until 1914,Modigliani would sculpt almost exclusively, andwhen his mother wrote to him in Paris, sheaddressed her letters to ‘Amedeo Modigliani,scultore.’ Their Italian tour proved immenselyinfluential on him, and the legacy of early Etruscan,Cycladic and archaic Greek art are readily visible inhis work, as this Cycladic marble figure clearly shows(fig. 1). Her triangular nose, perpendicular arms,globe breasts and long oval head are all signature
‘The child’s character is sounformed that I cannot saywhat I think of it. He behaveslike a spoiled child, but hedoes not lack intelligence.Weshall have to wait and seewhat is inside this chrysalis.Perhaps an artist?’
From the diary of Eugenia Garsin

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