Amedeo Modigliani

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Self-portrait , 1919. This picture was taken shortly before Modigliani's death.
Amedeo Modigliani signature.svg
Self-portrait with hat from 1907

Amedeo Clemente Modigliani (born July 12, 1884 in Livorno , † January 24, 1920 in Paris ) was an Italian draftsman , painter and sculptor . Today's fame is mainly based on his nudes, which were perceived as scandalous in his time and only found acceptance later. Modigliani spent his youth in Italy, where he studied ancient and renaissance art until he moved to Paris in 1906. There he came into contact with important artists such as Pablo Picasso and Constantin Brâncuși . His life was marked by lung diseases. In a feverish dream he is said to have recognized his calling to art, at the age of 35 he died of tuberculosis . The information about Modigliani's life is based on only a few authenticated documents, so that legends were formed especially after his death .

Modigliani's oeuvre mainly includes paintings and drawings. From 1909 to 1914, however, he mainly devoted himself to sculpture. The main motif is the human being, both in the pictures and in the sculptures. There are also few pictures with landscape motifs. Modigliani's interior scenes and still lifes are not known. Modigliani often referred to the Renaissance in his works , but also took up other elements such as the African art popular at the time. In contrast, it cannot be assigned to any of the contemporary styles, such as Cubism or Fauvism . During his life, Amedeo Modigliani had little success with his art, it was only after his death that he achieved greater popularity and his works of art achieved high prices.


First years of life and childhood

Amedeo Modigliani's birthplace in Livorno. The city council honored the artist with the plaque on the occasion of his 75th birthday.

Amedeo Modigliani was born as the fourth and youngest child of Flaminio and Eugenia Modigliani. One of his brothers was Giuseppe Emanuele Modigliani , who later became a politician of the Partito Socialista Italiano and a member of the Italian parliament. The Modigliani family belonged to the enlightened Jewish bourgeoisie in the city. As Sephardic Jews, the members of the family lived according to a liberal interpretation of their faith. When Amedeo Modigliani was born, the family business, which traded in wood and coal, had already gone bankrupt due to the poor economic situation. That is why Modigliani's mother contributed to the family support as a private teacher and translator - including poems by Gabriele D'Annunzio . In addition, she wrote literary reviews under a pseudonym. Amedeo Modigliani probably took part in the traditional five o'clock teas in his grandfather Isaac Garsin 's house, where works by Oscar Wilde were discussed, for example . Since his mother came from Marseille , Amedeo Modigliani learned the French language at an early age , which later made his integration in Paris easier for him.

At the age of eleven, Amedeo Modigliani suffered from severe pleurisy . In 1898, at the age of 14, he fell ill with typhus , which at that time was still considered a fatal disease. According to his mother's account, during the illness he had a feverish dream in which he fantasized about the artistic masterpieces in Italy and which thus showed him his artistic destiny. After Amedeo Modigliani recovered, his parents gave him permission to drop out of school and start studying art.


Modigliani's house in Venice

Amedeo Modigliani enrolled at the private drawing and painting school of the painter Guglielmo Micheli in Livorno in 1898 . At the age of 14, he was the youngest student in his class there. In addition to the artistic training at the school, which was still strongly based on impressionism , he learned nude painting in Gino Romiti 's studio . In July 1900 he fell ill with tuberculosis . Because the change in the air was supposed to help his recovery, he spent the winter of 1900/1901 with his mother on a trip to Naples , Capri and Rome . From there Amedeo Modigliani wrote five letters to the nine years older artist Oscar Ghiglia , with whom he was friends. These letters are among the few written documents by Modigliani that have survived. In them he described, among other things, his impression of Rome: "Rome is not around me while I am telling you, but inside me, like a terrible jewel surrounded by its seven hills and seven imperious ideas."

In the spring of 1901 Amedeo Modigliani followed his friend Ghiglia to Florence . After spending the winter of 1901/1902 in Rome, he returned to Florence and enrolled at the Scuola libera di Nudo on May 7, 1902 (German: free school for nudes). There he studied with Giovanni Fattori and also dealt mainly with the art of the Renaissance . In 1903 he went, again following Ghiglia, to Venice , where he lived in the Dorsoduro district , directly opposite the Chiesa di San Sebastiano, until he moved to Paris. He enrolled at the Istituto di Belle Arti di Venezia on March 19 of that year . There he took courses in the free nude drawing class. His focus was on studying Italian art history, painting was less intensive. In 1903 and 1905 he came into contact at the biennials with the works of the French Impressionists , with Rodin's sculptures and works of Symbolism . Modigliani began consuming hashish while studying in Venice and took part in spiritualistic sessions.

Move to Paris

At the beginning of 1906, Amedeo Modigliani moved to Paris , as the local art scene was considered particularly progressive and developed and established new art styles. In the previous year, relatively unknown artists, such as André Derain and Henri Matisse , who had been nicknamed Les Fauves (German: Die Wilden ), exhibited in the autumn salon . The Parisian art world became the center of avant-garde painting with progressive art dealers supporting young and innovative artists like Pablo Picasso . After his arrival, Modigliani initially lived in a comfortable hotel on the right bank of the Seine , which seemed appropriate to him because he came from a middle-class family. After a short time he moved to the Montmartre district , where he lived in the Bateau-Lavoir and used a simple studio, and took nude drawing lessons at the Académie Colarossi . His mother sent him as much money as she could, but it wasn't enough for Modigliani to survive. That is why he often changed his accommodation and sometimes left his works of art behind when he fled an apartment because he could no longer pay the rent. One of the first friendships that Modigliani made in Paris was with the German painter Ludwig Meidner . He later described Modigliani's position and appearance in Parisian society: “Our Modigliani [...] was a characteristic and at the same time highly talented representative of the bohemians from Montmartre; probably the last real bohemian. ”Despite his health problems, Modigliani took part in the dissolute life of the artists in Montmartre.

In the spring of 1907 Modigliani was taken by the painter Henri Doucet to a house that Paul Alexandre had rented for young artists. The young doctor Alexandre was fascinated by Modigliani's pictures and therefore began to support him. He bought pictures and drawings from him and arranged for portraits for him. Modigliani exhibited in the avant-garde autumn salon in 1907, which was shaped by the Fauvists. In the following year he showed six paintings in the Salon des Indépendants , including Die Jüdin . However, his pictures received little attention. The influential publicist Guillaume Apollinaire only mentioned Amedeo Modigliani in passing through his criticism of the salon. Paul Alexandre succeeded in giving Modigliani access to wealthy circles, so that in the spring of 1909 he received the first paid commission with the portrait of The Amazon by Baroness Marguerite de Hasse de Villers .

Time as a sculptor

In 1909 Modigliani met the Romanian sculptor Constantin Brâncuși through Paul Alexandre and, on his advice, moved into his studio in the Cité Falguière on Montparnasse in April 1909 . Modigliani began as a result of this acquaintance in the same year with stone carving, which for some time came to the fore of his work. In Livorno and Carrara , impressed by the brief style of Brâncuşi, he had drawn to sculpture. Modigliani could also have wanted to work as a sculptor beforehand, but did not have the technical possibilities that were only available with the new studio. The ancient heritage of Italy, which he knew from personal experience, could also have been an inspiration for the creation of sculptures. Another possibility would be that Modigliani wanted to try another artistic genre because of the stagnating success of his painting.

In 1910 Modigliani met the Russian poet Anna Achmatova , with whom he had a relationship in the following period. In 1911 he exhibited his archaic stone sculptures in the studio of the Portuguese artist Amadeo de Souza-Cardoso . A phase of intensive preoccupation with the motif of the caryatids in his works, both in sculpture and in paintings, began. The following year, Modigliani's sculptures were exhibited in the autumn salon. Modigliani got to know the sculptors Jacob Epstein and Jacques Lipchitz , who also lived in Paris, the latter of whom described Modigliani's art as "an expression of his personal feelings". In the spring of 1913 Amedeo Modigliani stayed in Livorno, where he took up quarters near a quarry. In this he worked as a marble sculptor , having previously only worked with sand-lime brick. He sent the completed sculptures to Paris; however, they have not been handed down.

The exact reasons for the termination of his sculpting activities after 1913 are not known. One reason could have been his poor health, which was further damaged by the dusty environment. Nor could he have seen a future for his work as a sculptor. He did not develop further artistically and the few exhibitions brought little attention and financial improvements. So he could have turned back to the more lucrative painting out of these considerations.

Return to painting and life during the First World War

Portrait of Pablo Picasso , 1915. This portrait is one of the portraits made during the war by artist friends

In the spring of 1914, Amedeo Modigliani met the art dealer Paul Guillaume , who represented some young and still unknown artists. Guillaume also took over the representation of Modigliani after the latter had lost sight of Paul Alexandre at the beginning of the First World War , and participated in several group exhibitions in his gallery. When the war began, Modigliani volunteered for military service, but was not drafted due to his poor health. Therefore he belonged to the smaller circle of artists who stayed in Paris.

In June 1914 Modigliani met the English writer Beatrice Hastings , with whom he had a love affair for over two years. She was in Paris as a columnist for The New Age newspaper, writing about the city's social life. She described, among other things, Modigliani's consumption of hashish and alcohol, under which he "never did anything good". Modigliani's excessive life only intensified during the tumultuous relationship with Beatrice Hastings. His use of alcohol and opium , which he shared with friends Maurice Utrillo and Chaim Soutine , was picked up in the press.

In 1915 Modigliani moved with Beatrice Hastings to Rue Norvaine on Butte Montmartre and portrayed Pablo Picasso . A year later, other portraits of famous people followed, including his friend Jacques Lipchitz and Chaim Soutine , for whom Modigliani was also a close friend and supporter. With these portraits of the avant-garde of Paris, Modigliani himself was connected to her. It secured him a singular place among Parisian artists, as he captured a picture of this scene with his portraits, and made possible the later legend of Modigliani as the main figure of the Parisian artistic community. In addition, Amedeo Modigliani met the Polish art dealer and poet Leopold Zborowski through the help of his artist friend Moïse Kisling . As a dealer, he did not have the contacts of Guillaume and his feeling for avant-garde painting, but he supported Modigliani in the latter years of his life. So he and his wife Anna took the artist into their apartment after he separated from Beatrice Hastings. Zborowski paid Modigliani a daily allowance and the painting materials and let him work in his apartment. Later he also paid for the models for Modigliani's nudes.

Amedeo Modigliani produced a series of around 30 nudes in 1916 and 1917 . On the mediation of Leopold Zborowski these pictures were shown in a solo exhibition in the gallery of the art dealer Berthe Weill . On December 3, 1917, the exhibition was opened with a vernissage with invited guests. The gallery was opposite a police station and a commissioner became aware of the crowd that was forming as a result of an act presented in the shop window. He called Berthe Weill over and asked her to end the exhibition and remove the pictures because they were too revealing. To prevent the pictures from being confiscated, Weill complied with the request.

Stay in the south of France

In April 1917 Modigliani met 19-year-old Jeanne Hébuterne , who was studying at the Académie Colarossi . A short time later, the two moved into a shared apartment. In 1918 they left Paris with the Zborowski couple and Modigliani's friend Soutine when an invasion of German troops threatened. In addition, Zborowski's interest as an art dealer could have been a motive for this step, as a change in the air would possibly do the two sick artists Modigliani and Soutine good and increase their productivity. They went to the French Mediterranean coast, where Modigliani painted numerous portraits, which he had turned back to after the files. He sent the finished pictures to Paris for sale.

Amedeo Modigliani's tombstone in the Père Lachaise cemetery in Paris

Little is known about Modigliani's year in the south of France , as there are hardly any written documents and his Parisian contemporaries had little to say about him in his absence. At first Modigliani, Jeanne Hébuterne and his friends lived in Cagnes-sur-Mer , later they moved to Nice . There Jeanne Hébuterne gave birth to a daughter on November 29, 1918. Amedeo Modigliani recognized the paternity of the child who received the mother's first name. During his stay in Nice and the surrounding area, Modigliani visited Pierre-Auguste Renoir , who lived in an estate over the coast. A painter living in the neighborhood later reported that there had been a dispute between the old master of impressionism and the young painter over advice from Renoir.

Last year of life and death

After mediation by Zborowski, several works by Modigliani were shown at exhibitions in England in 1919, including the Modern French Painting exhibition in Heale . Furthermore, in September of that year, the London Hill Gallery showed ten works by Modigliani. At the end of May 1919 Modigliani returned to Paris, where he took part in the autumn salon. During this time he was also supported by the Finnish painter Léopold Survage , who made his studio available to him. When Jeanne Hébuterne became pregnant again, Amedeo Modigliani became engaged to her. There is a marriage obligation dated July 7, 1919, in which he officially recognizes her as his future wife and their daughter as his child. However, he was no longer able to implement this intention to marry because he became seriously ill with tuberculosis towards the end of the year.

Modigliani died on January 24, 1920 in the Charité in Paris. The day after next, his fiancée died of suicide . Modigliani was buried in the Père Lachaise cemetery with great sympathy . Hébuterne was later buried next to him after her family gave up their resistance. Her daughter Jeanne was adopted by Modigliani's sister in Florence.


Amedeo Modigliani's complete oeuvre consists of paintings, drawings and sculptures. The oeuvre includes around 420 paintings, only 14 of which are dated, and around 25 sculptures. With the exception of a few landscape paintings, the focus of Modigliani's art is on the representation of humans. This is expressed in the portraits, files and sculptures of human heads or figures and shows an intact image of the human being. Modigliani cannot be assigned to any modern art movement. His works combine expressionist , cubist and symbolist elements, but also show a reference to antiquity , the Renaissance and Mannerism , which he knew from his student days in Italy. So he designed his own individual style.

Linear and elongated shapes are characteristic of Amedeo Modigliani's style. Many of his pictures show elements typical of Modigliani, such as elongated faces and blind eyes. The representation is greatly reduced, in the portraits and files it is so focused on the person that the space fades into the background and hardly any attributes can be found next to the central figure. Only in the later works of Modigliani are indications of the social environment of the person depicted through a few objects in the picture. Before 1914 there were also few circus and variety drawings that put the characters in a larger narrative context.

Since Modigliani only dated a fraction of his works, the exact sequence of the pictures can only be reconstructed through stylistic analyzes and traditions from contemporary reports. A stylistic and compositional development can be demonstrated within the oeuvre, which led to images that continued to strive towards perfection.


The Jewess , around 1908
Portrait of Diego Rivera , 1914
Portrait of Jacques Lipchitz and his wife Berthe Lipchitz , 1916
Image detail from Portrait des Cendrars , 1917. Modigliani integrated
the sitter's name into the picture in irregular capital letters.
Portrait of Jeanne Hébuterne , 1918

The majority of Amedeo Modigliani's pictures are portraits . One of his early works is the picture Die Jüdin , which was created around 1908. The 55 × 46 centimeter oil painting has a statuary structure. It shows a stern-looking woman whose face is clearly worked out and clearly stands out from the rather blurred surroundings. The main focus of the picture is on the representation of the psychology of the person, which is expressed in the communication of mood, behavior in the picture and in the woman's gaze at the viewer. This is why the representation is very moderate and, despite the light brushwork, not geared towards the independent use of colors and surfaces. However, there are also parts of the picture that are strongly influenced by the purely painterly treatment of the surface. An example of this is the color field in the lower right corner of the picture, which cannot be assigned to a specific object. This relates to the idea of Maurice Denis that a picture, before it shows its subject, is just a surface that is covered with color according to a certain order. This definition was of great importance to the time Modigliani was also working. The Jewess also shows Modigliani's search for his place in art amid the various avant-garde currents. The work contains influences from Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec , Edvard Munch and Paul Cézanne and stands in contrast to the predominant Fauvist painting with its dominant variety of colors. When the picture was exhibited in the Salon des Indépendants in 1908, its dark colors contrasted with most of the other works on display. Die Jüdin is also cautious in the depiction of the pictures , considering that Cubism , with which space and perspective were broken up, arose in the previous year . Modigliani's application of paint in this picture is strongly based on that of Expressionism .

During the First World War, after his phase as a sculptor, Modigliani portrayed many friends and artists who had remained in Paris. One of these portraits is the portrait of Diego Rivera from 1914. The 100 × 79 centimeter picture, painted in oil on cardboard, shows the Mexican painter Diego Rivera , who had come to Paris three years earlier and quickly became part of Picasso's circle of friends. Rivera married Frida Kahlo in 1929 and was the main exponent of Mexican wall painting in the 1930s . He was painted several times by Modigliani. This picture reflects Rivera's revolutionary views and temperament through the free color spot painting. The paint was applied to the painting surface with dabs. Modigliani was not based on the colorism of Cézanne, whom he admired, but rather produced an echo of Impressionist painting. The line technique used in this picture is also reminiscent of Modigliani's work in creating the sculptures. It creates the impression of a relief scratched into the painting ground . The picture shows the upper half of Rivera's body. The round face is framed by the hair and chest. Like the upper body, both elements are not specifically separated from the background of the picture. This gives the impression that the body fills the entire picture. Diego Rivera's eyes are almost completely closed, a smile plays around his mouth. That's why he seems pensive and satisfied. Due to the way in which Amedeo Modigliani paints it, the painting is one of the more expressive, in contrast to the following portraits, whose painting style is simpler and smoother and in which he placed more emphasis on the representation of the external appearance than on the character of the person depicted.

The portrait of Jacques Lipchitz and his wife Berthe Lipchitz from 1916 or 1917 is one of the pictures in which Amedeo Modigliani gave up depicting the psychology of a character and instead created representative portraits based on models from the Baroque era . Modigliani painted this 80.2 × 53.5 centimeter oil painting in several portrait sessions based on the Lipchitz wedding photo. This was not uncommon as he used photographs as templates for pictures several times at the time . This picture occupies a special position in Modigliani's work, as it is one of his few double portraits. The significance of these images becomes clear from the fact that group portraits are not included in Modigliani's oeuvre. The portrait of the young couple was preceded by several sketches, but they were still geared towards a single portrait. Modigliani felt his way closer and closer to the final composition in them . The picture shows the groom Jacques Lipchitz standing behind his wife Berthe. He put his left arm around his wife's shoulder. They are both dressed in dark clothes and stand out from the lighter background. Their faces are plump and their eyes are empty. The two sitters, with whom Modigliani was on friendly terms, appear sympathetic in the portrait, but are portrayed from an emotionless distance. This is a central feature of the portraits of the following years up to Modigliani's death. On the way to the final version of the portrait, a stylistic development also took place. The vertical and horizontal take a back seat, so that curved lines and flowing shapes dominate the picture. The portrait of the Lipchitz couple shows a stylistic characteristic of Modigliani with the irregular lettering LIPCHITZ written in capital letters , which many of his portraits of friends have in common. This lettering, which clearly differs from the signature in its awkward brushwork, was formally based on the tradition of Renaissance images. Artists such as Giorgone and Tizian gave information in the inscriptions not only about the sitter's name, but also, for example, about belonging to secret societies . With the formal quote, Modigliani may have alluded to a similar inner relationship with the friends portrayed. He also used it to loosen up the composition. In the baroque and renaissance references it becomes clear that Modigliani also applied his knowledge in the area of ​​earlier art epochs, which he had acquired in the studies of his early years, in his pictures.

Many of Amedeo Modigliani's portraits show his two lovers Beatrice Hastings and Jeanne Hébuterne. Hastings paintings often feature a pointed rendition of the eyes, mouth and nose. They show a strong focus on the character of his eccentric lover. The images have a playful and unofficial effect that is a result of the close and, according to Hastings own statements, dramatic relationship. The relationship with Jeanne Hébuterne was not so turbulent due to the large age difference. She looked up at Modigliani and was not the discussion partner like Hastings. The portraits of Hébuternes do not show great variations in perspective and style. In some pictures she is shown as a child woman , which shows a relation to youthful naivety , although she was a constant in Modigliani's life. Jeanne Hébuterne made Modigliani rethink his life, which was dominated by alcohol and other intoxicating drugs. With the pregnancy of Jeanne a serious change in Modigliani's life was connected and stood in contrast to his previous way of life. In this situation the picture Portrait of Jeanne Hébuterne , which shows her as a heavily pregnant woman, was created. The portrait shows Jeanne Hébuterne in a sitting position with her hands in her lap and her head tilted to one side. Modigliani does not cover up the pregnancy , but emphasizes it. For example, the curved finger of the right hand points to the stomach. Another emphasizing element are the stripes in the hip region that draw attention to the abdominal area. Despite the elongated neck, there is a slight hint of a double chin, indicating the severity of the final phase of pregnancy. The color scheme is very balanced. The dark areas of clothing and hair are balanced by the stripes on the hips and arms, as well as the green and orange background. The picture creates a very calm mood, it does not contain any movement and the person appears calm, which is particularly evident from the position of the head. A special intensity is created by Jeanne Hébuternes looking directly at the viewer, who also exudes calm.


Suffering Nude - Nudo Dolente , 1908
Reclining nude , 1917
Standing nude - Elvira , 1918

Amedeo Modigliani painted throughout his life nude paintings , which represent the second largest group of works by the portraits. The first date from 1908, such as the picture Suffering Nude - Nudo Dolente . This 81 × 54 centimeter oil painting shows a half-figure representation of a woman. The skinny woman is shown completely naked . The head is thrown back, the mouth open. This is a sign of ecstasy , suffering , pain and sensuality . The person's true expression is hidden behind the mask-like face. The shoulders are pulled forward. The unnaturally long arms hang loosely from them, the hands rest on the thighs. The woman is so thin that she looks like a skeleton . Modigliani's nude thus contradicted the classic content of this genre, which had a sensual and strongly sexual relationship. The light, almost white body stands out clearly against the dark background and is emphasized by the light-dark contrast. The paint application is rough and makes the picture appear partially incomplete. In this painting, Modigliani's similar conception of the body in relation to other artists of the time is evident. There are similarities with pictures such as Madonna by Edvard Munch from 1894 or works by George Minne .

In 1916 and 1917 Modigliani painted his well-known series of nudes, which includes 30 paintings. They show sitting, standing or lying models, idealized in their nakedness. The female body forms the central element of the picture, the room and other objects take a back seat and are only shown to a small extent in the picture. Their representation has no mythological or historical reference, but serves the sole purpose of representing nudity. Nevertheless, they are in the tradition of depicting the naked Venus , which was the predominant nude motif from the Renaissance to the 19th century. However, Modigliani oriented himself on the Italian masters of the Renaissance such as Tizian , Sandro Botticelli and Giorgione , who, however, worked before the academic era of painting. Her representations did not follow specific nudes, but rather show the individual characteristics of each artist. With the art academies, a formative understanding of the nude had become established. There was a specific and restricted canon of poses for the nude models, strict and formal rules. Amedeo Modigliani breaks with this academic tradition in his files by ignoring the proportions, anatomy and movement in the pictures. In addition, the poses of the models are not adapted to academic teaching. Modigliani's files have also been influenced by his studies at the Académie Colarossi. There the students were given models whose posture they could freely determine. In addition, so-called quarter-hour bars were painted, which required a sketchy, quick capture of the motif. Many nude drawings by Modigliani have survived from the Parisian years.

The 60.6 × 92.7 centimeter painting Reclining Nude is one of Modigliani's most famous works and also comes from the series of pictures from 1916 and 1917. It shows a reclining model, which is located in the center of the picture. The woman is shown from close up, slightly overhead, so that her extremities are not fully depicted. So the forearms with the hands and the legs below the hips are missing. The face is turned towards the viewer, the eyes are open and look directly at the viewer. The hips are turned back slightly so that the shame cannot be seen. The body is on a red sheet, which creates a slight contrast between light and dark. There is a white pillow under the head, which forms the brightest areas of the picture with the approach of the white bedspread. The wall can be seen in the background. Overall, there are hardly any pictorial elements apart from the body that distract from it. The composition of the picture is based on the nude photography of the time, the eroticism is not overemphasized, but melancholy graduated. Whereby the depicted woman emanates dignity and coolness, which is a connection to Modigliani's sculptures.

After the series from 1916 and 1917, Amedeo Modigliani only occasionally painted nudes such as Standing Nude - Elvira from 1918. This 92 × 60 centimeter oil painting was created during Modigliani's stay in southern France. Typical for his paintings of this time, it was painted with much lighter colors. The dominant dark hues, especially red, are replaced by turquoise in this picture. The standing model, which is only shown from the thighs, takes the central position in the picture. Apart from a white sheet that hides the shame, there are no other compositional elements. The outlines of the body are strongly emphasized and the colors are applied over a large area, which reinforces the presence of the person.


Landscape , 1919

There are only a few landscape paintings among Amedeo Modigliani's works. These were created in his early years in Italy, on his travels to his homeland and during his stay in southern France. While the painting Landscape in Tuscany from 1898 was still based on Impressionism and has no clear contours, but rather appears blurred, the 60 × 45 centimeter painting Landscape painted in 1919, for example, is in contrast . This painting, created in the south of France, is structured by clear outlines. In the hills in the background, the buildings form clear geometric structures that contrast with the shapes of the surrounding clouds, but which also have clear outlines. In the foreground you can see a red area running diagonally through the picture, which either represents a path or a bridge railing. With the red of this picture element the color of the house roofs is taken up again. It is clearly demarcated from the surroundings, which creates a feeling of confinement and limitation. The hills in the center of the picture lead into the background in terraces and create an impression of spatial depth. In contrast to this, the trees are in the foreground, which with their long linear structures also structure the picture.

Modigliani's focus on the portrait is also expressed through the format in the landscape pictures that Modigliani painted in southern France. Instead of the landscape format that is common for landscapes, he also used the portrait format. Amedeo Modigliani's pictures show similarities to landscapes by Paul Cézanne , who was one of Modigliani's artistic models, as well as to pictures by other artists of the time. For example, there are compositional parallels to pictures by Gustav Klimt . There are also other similarities such as the stylized appearance of the trees and the spatial arrangement of the picture elements.

Sculptures and pictures related to sculpture

Head , 1912. This sculpture is on display in the
Metropolitan Museum of Art .
Caryatid , 1911/1912

Between 1909 and 1914 Amedeo Modigliani devoted himself almost exclusively to sculpture. In addition to him, other painters turned to this art form at this time, such as Picasso, Matisse and André Derain . This happened as a result of the great popularity of African art before the First World War , the sculptures of which achieved great popularity under the term negro sculpture . Amedeo Modigliani also got to know the sculptor Brancusi, whose sculptures were exhibited next to his paintings in the autumn salon. Only after contact with Brancusi did Modigliani turn to sculpture and move into a studio set up for sculpture on Montparnasse.

Most of Amedeo Modigliani's sculptures depict heads, which he called pillars of tenderness . According to the art historian Gerhard Kolberg, these sculptures fluctuate "between high ideal and sculptural standards and primitive to archaic sculptural execution". It is particularly noticeable that Modigliani, despite his inexperience as a sculptor, was able to give his head sculptures a uniform stylistic appearance. They all have the same basic dimensions and are made from rectangular stone blocks. The heads are idol-like and iconic and exude a majestic dignity due to their simplicity. In the joint exhibitions of these sculptures in 1911 it became clear that they only show their significance as a whole, but not as a single work. In order to increase the effect of the presentation, Modigliani developed his own lighting concept for the objects. With this type of exhibition he staged his sculptures in such a way that a mysterious and religious impression was created. One example of this series is the 70.5 by 23.5 by 7.6 centimeter head of a woman that is in the possession of the Philadelphia Museum of Art . It has the typical features of Modigliani's head depictions. The face is elongated so that the nose and ears are unnaturally long. The chin is pointed, the distance between the eyes small. The facial expression does not convey any emotion, but rather exudes calm.

In addition to the head sculptures, Amedeo Modigliani only created two more that are known today: a standing figure and a caryatid . This shows a clear reference back to Greco-Roman antiquity . Caryatids are robed figures in human form, which support entire cornices or floors and have been an integral part of architecture since ancient times. The sculpture Caryatid from 1914 is only related to this function through its posture. The figure kneels on one leg, the other is bent to the body. The strong female figure holds both arms raised above her head. Modigliani only indicates the burden she had to carry with a plate. The weight of the sculpture is concentrated solely on the central axis of the figure, which gives it stability. The sand-lime brick used was only roughly worked by Modigliani, which created a rough surface in contrast to the smooth surfaces of the head sculptures. No face is carved out, so the figure has a special anonymity.

Modigliani painted only a few pictures during his sculptural creative phase. These mostly had a relation to sculpture, were inspired by statues or took up the motif of the caryatid. An example of this group of pictures is the 72.5 × 50 centimeter oil painting Caryatid , which was created around 1911/1912. In terms of posture, the figure is very similar to the sculpture made in 1914. The body is composed of individual elements in a geometrical way. The entire body is elongated and has elongated, powerful arms. The picture therefore does not show a sensual representation of a woman, but that of strength and calm. The woman's face resembles those of ancient Egyptian and Mycenaean statues, which is also a reception of the works he studied. The bending of the figure is sculpturally impossible because the distribution of the weight at the base would cause the figure to overturn. For Modigliani, for example, the picture represents a way of not being tied to the limitations of creating a sculpture when dealing with the subject.


Pencil drawing of a nude, 1918. In this 44.1 × 27.9 centimeter drawing, Modigliani studied a composition that he used in a similar way in a number of paintings.

Many drawings by Amedeo Modigliani have survived. Their high number may be due to the artist's student days. In the Académie Colarossi , he learned to quickly capture a figure in a 15-minute act, as the model took a different position after 15 minutes. Later, too, his drawings were made in a very short time and without many corrections. He laid out the drawings in broad outline, whereby obvious inaccuracies that exist in a few exceptional cases represent an effect intended by the artist. During his entire artistic career, he only put the drawings on paper after they had already taken shape in his head. There was no technical development in his work. He mostly used sheets of paper, which he cut out of his sketch pads at the perforation and on which he sketched with ink and black oil pastel. More rarely he used watercolor , graphite , red chalk, charcoal pencil and blue to purple chalk.

Most of Modigliani's drawings are studies in which he tested motifs and compositions, and representations of a situation or a figure created from the moment. The drawings, which were inspired by the theater and circus and which were created in 1908, stand out from the rest of Modigliani's work because they represent a completely different subject. They are not only concentrated on the figure, but rather represent it in a broader narrative context. Two of the sketches show a room in the Gaîté-Rochechouart on Montmartre, where Modigliani saw a performance. One shows a group of actors on stage, the other an empty stage. The same viewers can be seen in both pictures, so that it is proven that both drawings were made in the same performance on site. With the drawings of dancers, artists and a marionette , those from the theater make up the only works Modigliani in which his pleasure in and inclination for theater and circus become clear.

With the large number of drawings made during the years as a sculptor, it is assumed that most of them are not templates for specific individual pieces, but that Modigliani recorded ideas for sculptures that were not realized. No drawing is a copy of another, but due to their stylistic similarity, according to Claude Roy , they display a “wonderful monotony of obsession”. There are also many portrait and nude drawings.

Importance, Assessment, and Success

Amedeo Modigliani had little success with his art for most of his life. His works were in little demand as they did not belong to the great new currents in art, but rather showed a personal style. From 1914, after the end of the phase as a sculptor, Modigliani developed a new, more decorative style, which gradually brought increasing success with its long necks and almond-shaped eyes. At this time, the New Objectivity movement emerged , in which the representation of an intact image of man was required. Modigliani also made more compromises as a result of the relationship with Jeanne Hébuterne and the birth of his daughter. In this way, his pictures became more pleasing and therefore more selling. As a result, the prices for his paintings rose rapidly. One of the most important collectors of Modigliani's works was Roger Dutilleul , a French industrialist and art collector who acquired around a tenth of Modigliani's entire oeuvre from 1918 to 1925.

Modigliani himself rarely commented on his art. According to reports from his contemporaries, he used the image of a Jewish outsider and foreigner. According to his self-image as an artist, he was a “superuomo” (German: “Übermensch”) and chosen one of society. What is striking is the strict separation of private life from art. He only painted a self-portrait and did not take up the unsteady lifestyle in his works of art, but developed a clear and simple style. His pictures combine tradition with modernity. Modigliani was neither a pioneer nor a pioneer of artistic development. Rather, he remained a stylistic outsider and loner. By bridging the gap between modern art and past art eras, Modigliani made an outstanding individual contribution to the art of the 20th century.

In the history of reception, Modigliani's nudes represent the most discussed and praised part of his oeuvre, although they only make up about a tenth of this. The position of these pictures was justified by the censorship that persisted after Modigliani's death and the effect on the viewer. Even after the Second World War, the files sparked discussions about their pornographic content. The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York had to justify itself when it wanted to print reproductions of the painting in its possession, Nude with Necklace . The Modigliani files received various contradicting judgments. On the one hand, they were positively described as "fascinating and sensual", while other critics found them "coldly repulsive". Amedeo Modigliani developed his own style in the files. While other painters of the time such as Picasso, Matisse, Tsuguharu Foujita or Kees van Dongen depicted the naked female body in a more extensive subject , Modigliani concentrated solely on the representation of the female body, giving no action and no further information about the model in the picture again.

Nu couché (1917)

In 1955 his works were shown at documenta 1 in Kassel and in 1964 also at documenta III in the famous hand drawings department . A similar head sculpture owned by the heirs of the French department store founder Gaston Lévy achieved a price of 43.2 million euros at Christie's in Paris in June 2010, including the premium. The maximum price for a painting by the artist was achieved on November 9, 2015 at a Christie's auction in New York when the painting Nu couché sold for 170.4 million US dollars (approx. 158.5 million euros) changed. Modigliani's Nu assis sur un divan (La Belle Romaine) had been auctioned for US $ 68,962,500 five years earlier . The highest price to date for a Modigliani sculpture was paid by an anonymous buyer on November 4, 2014 at an auction in the New York branch of Sotheby’s , when the Tête sculpture changed hands for $ 70.7 million.

Counterfeiting and authentication

When his works of art rose in price after Modigliani's death, authentic images of Modigliani were subsequently given his signature. This enabled business people to significantly increase the value of the pictures. In addition, completely new pictures were produced, which were issued as Modigliani's works and which were also able to achieve good prices. The forgeries were facilitated by the difficulty in determining authenticity. A statement about this could often only be made through comparative vision. By studying as many originals as possible, the painting technique of an artist, signature, choice of color, composition and other features are analyzed so that other paintings can be compared accordingly. X-ray examinations could also provide information about the style of painting and the material used . The Paris retrospective of 1981 made a significant contribution to establishing the authenticity of Modigliani's works. During the preparations, criteria for assessing Modigliani's approach and the signature were established.

In addition, the authenticity of Modigliani's works was proven using the provenance principle , for example for the portrait of Jacques Lipchitz and his wife . It was acquired from a reliable source by private collectors Frederic Clay and Helen Birch Bartlett and the creation of Lipchitz was personally confirmed. It was then given directly to the Art Institute of Chicago .

In 1984 the discovery of three alleged stone sculptures by Modigliani in a canal in Livorno caused a stir. He would have thrown these works into the water during his last stay in his hometown in an outburst of rage. The authenticity of the sculptures was controversial among art historians. After some time, however, a group of students and a hobby artist announced that they had created these sculptures on the occasion of Amedeo Modigliani's 100th birthday and threw them into the canal.



Modigliani's life in poverty, his use of drugs and his nudes were popular subjects of literary reception. A particularly frequently used motif is the fantasy that Modigliani not only painted his models, but also had sexual contacts with them. An example of this is a novel by André Salmon on Amedeo Modigliani. In one scene, a model is undressing, and with each new pose she reminds Modigliani of an art-historical role model. This impresses him just as much as the sight of the naked girl, so that he does not start painting straight away, but first has sexual intercourse with her. In depicting this incident, Salmon equates the gaze of humans with the gaze of the artist Modigliani in a refined way.

In Ken Follett's novel The Modigliani Scandal , the art student Dee comes across an unknown painting by Modigliani while researching her dissertation. While she is following the trail with her boyfriend, two unscrupulous treasure hunters get wind of the matter and cling to their heels, possibly - each for themselves - to be the first to get to the picture. Dee and her boyfriend just win the race. In a second storyline, two young, less successful painters fight with a spectacular coup to ensure that the flourishing art trade is socially committed to young artists. They sell invented, self-painted works by Van Gogh, Munch, Picasso etc. to the most important galleries, but later refund the money they stole. In the end, however, the two are forced by Dee's friend to copy the newly discovered Modigliani twice. With these forgeries, the treasure hunters are deceived and thus 'justly' punished in the eyes of the reader.


In addition to the literary reception, Amedeo Modigliani's life was also dealt with in three feature films. In 1958, the film Montparnasse 19 was directed by Jacques Becker (original title: Les amants de Montparnasse ). It deals with the last years of Modigliani's life, played by Gérard Philipe , in the Montparnasse district of Paris . The film places a special focus on their poverty and drug addiction. The 1990 film Modi , in which Richard Berry played the artist. The film deals with the life of Modigliani from his move from Livorno to Paris and follows him through the period of the First World War and the post-war period.

In 2004 Mick Davis directed the feature film Modigliani . Andy García played Modigliani here; His relationship to Jeanne Hébuterne and the alleged rivalry with Picasso are discussed. This is expressed in 1919 in the competition during a competition that promises the winner success and high prize money. Modigliani wants to deliver a masterpiece to secure the financial livelihood of his young family. The film was panned in the New York Times : "The best and maybe the only use to be made of the catastrophic screen biography" Modigliani "is to serve as a textbook outline of how not to film the life of a legendary artist." ( Stephen Holden:, German: "The best and possibly only use of this catastrophic film biography Modigliani is to serve as a teaching example of how the life of a legendary artist should not be filmed.")

Modigliani is also featured in the film Baldwin, the night ghost with Louis de Funès and Jean Gabin from 1968.

Works (selection)

This selection includes one of the sculptures and 25 of Modigliani's 400 or so paintings. It is based on the full-page color plates of the work Amedeo Modigliani by Jane Rogoyska and Frances Alexander listed under literature .

image title Originated Size, material Exhibition / collection / owner
Nude (Little Jeanne), 1908.jpg
Nude (Little Jeanne) around 1908 61 × 38 cm, oil on canvas Perls Gallery in New York
Amedeo Modigliani 005.jpg
The Jewess 1908 55 × 46 cm, oil on canvas Private collection
Modigliani, Suffering Nude.jpg
Suffering act - Nudo Dolente 1908 81 × 54 cm, oil on canvas Richard Nathanson in London
The Chellist, 1909.jpg
The cellist 1909 130 × 80 cm, oil on canvas Private collection
Modigliani Kyratide.jpg
caryatid 1911/1912 72.5 × 50 cm, oil on canvas Art collection of North Rhine-Westphalia in Düsseldorf
'Woman's Head', limestone sculpture by Amedeo Modigliani, 1912, Metropolitan Museum of Art.jpg
head 1912 - Metropolitan Museum of Art
Caryatid in pink.jpg
Caryatid in pink 1913/1914 54.6 × 43 cm, watercolor Evelyn Sharp Collection
Amedeo Modigliani 061.jpg
caryatid 1913 81 × 46 cm, oil on canvas Samir Traboulsi Collection
Modigliani Portrait Diego Rivera.jpg
Portrait of Diego Rivera 1914 100 × 79 cm, oil on cardboard Museu de Arte in São Paulo
Amedeo Modigliani 032.jpg
Portrait of Moise Kisling 1915 37 × 29 cm, oil on canvas Pinacoteca di Brera in Milan
Bride and Groom.jpg
bride and groom 1915 55.2 × 46.3 cm, oil on canvas Museum of Modern Art in New York
Amedeo Modigliani 021.jpg
Portrait of Beatrice Hastings in front of a door 1915 81 × 54 cm, oil on canvas Ritter Collection in New York
Amedeo Modigliani 060.jpg
Sitting act 1916 92 × 60 cm, oil on canvas Courtauld Institute of Art in London
Amedeo Modigliani 040.jpg
Portrait of Jacques Lipchitz with his wife 1916 81 × 54 cm, oil on canvas Art Institute of Chicago in Chicago
Amedeo Modigliani 036.jpg
Portrait of Chaim Soutine 1916 100 × 65 cm, oil on canvas Private collection
Female Nude Reclining on a Pillow by Amedeo Modigliani - Staatsgalerie - Stuttgart - Germany 2017.jpg
Reclining nude on a white pillow 1917 60 × 92 cm, oil on canvas State Gallery Stuttgart
Amedeo Modigliani 012.jpg
Reclining Nude (French Nu couché ) 1917 60 × 92 cm, oil on canvas Long Museum , Chongqing
Amedeo Modigliani 056.jpg
Sitting act 1917 73 × 116 cm, oil on canvas Royal Museum of Fine Arts in Antwerp
Modigliani Amedeo 14.jpg
Portrait of Jeanne Hébuterne with a large hat 1917 55 × 38 cm, oil on canvas Private collection
Amedeo Modigliani 015.jpg
Lying nude with arms folded behind the head 1917 60 × 92 cm, oil on canvas Private collection
Amedeo Modigliani 023.jpg
Portrait of Jeanne Hébuterne 1918 116 × 73 cm, oil on canvas Private collection
Amedeo Modigliani 062.jpg
Standing Nude (Elvira) 1918 100 × 65 cm, oil on canvas Walter Hadorn Collection in Bern
Amedeo Modigliani 017.jpg
Girl in blue 1918 92 × 60 cm, oil on canvas Private collection
Portrait of Jeanne Hébuterne 1919 55 × 38 cm, oil on canvas Private collection
Modigliani Amedeo 15.jpg
landscape 1919 60 × 45 cm, oil on canvas Private collection
Amedeo Modigliani 003.jpg
Tree and houses 1919 57 × 45 cm, oil on canvas Private collection
Amedeo Modigliani 053.jpg
Self-portrait 1919 100 × 65 cm, oil on canvas Museu de Arte Contemporanea da Universidade de São Paulo



  • Love at work - Jeanne Hébuterne and Amedeo Modigliani. (OT: L'amour à l'œuvre - Jeanne Hébuterne et Amedeo Modigliani. ) Documentary, France, 2019, 26:09 min., Written and directed: Stéphanie Colaux and Delphine Deloget, production: Bonne Compagnie, arte France, series: Love at work (OT: L'amour à l'œuvre. Couples mythiques d'artistes ), first broadcast: April 7, 2019 on arte, synopsis by ARD .
  • The tender look - The Modigliani nudes. Documentary, Germany, 2017, 52:13 min., Script and direction: Hilka Sinning, production: Medea Film, ZDF , arte , first broadcast: December 10, 2017 on arte, synopsis by ARD , preview video, 2:13 min. Among others with the Modigliani biographer Anette Kruszynski, the Modigliani expert and curator Marc Restellini and the Tate Modern curator Nancy Ireson.

Web links

Commons : Amedeo Modigliani  - album with pictures, videos and audio files



Individual evidence

  1. ^ H. Otte: Inner crises in Italy 1870-1914. ( Memento of March 29, 2007 in the Internet Archive ) In: Italy 1870–1914. Texts on conflict and peace research , 2007.
  2. Anette Kruszynski: Amedeo Modigliani - nudes and portraits. Prestel, Munich 1996, p. 14.
  3. ^ Doris Krystof: Amedeo Modigliani. Taschen, Cologne 2006, p. 8.
  4. ^ Doris Krystof: Amedeo Modigliani. Taschen, Cologne 2006, p. 10.
  5. ^ Doris Krystof: Amedeo Modigliani. Taschen, Cologne 2006, p. 94.
  6. ^ Doris Krystof: Amedeo Modigliani. Taschen, Cologne 2006, p. 16.
  7. ^ Pontus Hultén , Natalia Dumitresco, Alexandre Istrati: Brancusi. Klett-Cotta, Stuttgart 1986, p. 129.
  8. ^ Doris Krystof: Amedeo Modigliani. Taschen, Cologne 2006. p. 25.
  9. ^ Doris Krystof: Amedeo Modigliani. Taschen, Cologne 2006, p. 37.
  10. Anette Kruszynski: Amedeo Modigliani - nudes and portraits. Prestel, Munich 1996, p. 22.
  11. ^ Doris Krystof: Amedeo Modigliani. Taschen, Cologne 2006, p. 52.
  12. ^ Pierre Cabanne: Dictionnaire international des arts. Paris 1979, Bordas, ISBN 2-04-010750-9 , p. 894.
  13. ^ Doris Krystof: Amedeo Modigliani. Taschen, Cologne 2006, p. 47.
  14. ^ Doris Krystof: Amedeo Modigliani . Taschen, Cologne 2006, p. 85.
  15. Angela Scheider, Anke Daemgen, Gary Tinterow (eds.): The most beautiful French come from New York . Nicolaische Verlagsbuchhandlung GmbH, Berlin 2007, page 260.
  16. Anette Kruszynski: Amedeo Modigliani - nudes and portraits. Prestel, Munich 1996, page 20.
  17. Anette Kruszynski: Amedeo Modigliani - nudes and portraits . Prestel, Munich 1996, page 8.
  18. ^ Doris Krystof: Amedeo Modigliani. Taschen, Cologne 2006. page 19
  19. Image: Madonna by Edvard Munch
  20. Angela Scheider, Anke Daemgen, Gary Tinterow (eds.): The most beautiful French come from New York . Nicolaische Verlagsbuchhandlung GmbH, Berlin 2007, page 258.
  21. Jane Rogoyska, Frances Alexander: Amedeo Modigliani. Sirocco (London 2005), 140.
  22. ^ Doris Krystof: Amedeo Modigliani. Taschen, Cologne 2006. Page 28
  23. ^ Sculpture: Head of a Woman , 1912. In: Philadelphia Museum of Art .
  24. ^ Sculpture: Caryatid , around 1914, Moma. ( Memento of March 17, 2008 in the Internet Archive ). In: MoMA .
  25. ^ A b Noël Alexandre: The Unknown Modigliani - Drawings from the Paul Alexandre Collection. Mercatorfonds, Antwerp 1993, page 115.
  26. Jane Rogoyska, Frances Alexander: Amedeo Modigliani. Sirocco, London 2005, 66.
  27. Anette Kruszynski: Amedeo Modigliani - nudes and portraits. Prestel, Munich 1996, page 75.
  28. Biography and book review on , September 5, 2006.
  29. Anette Kruszynski: Amedeo Modigliani - nudes and portraits. Prestel, Munich 1996, page 111.
  30. Anette Kruszynski: Amedeo Modigliani - nudes and portraits. Prestel, Munich 1996, page 83.
  31. Auction report on (No longer available online.) Archived from the original on March 1, 2012 ; accessed on March 4, 2018 .
  32. aar / AP : Record auction: $ 170.4 million for Modigliani's "Nu couché". In: SpOn , November 10, 2015.
  33. Modigliani record price at Sotheby's. In: Der Standard , November 3, 2010.
  34. dpa : Giacometti's “Chariot” auctioned for $ 101 million. In: , November 5, 2014.
  35. Giovanni Morandi: La beffa di Modigliani. Tra falsari veri e falsi . Polistampa, 2004, ISBN 88-8304-781-8 .
  36. ^ Doris Krystof: Amedeo Modigliani. Taschen, Cologne 2006, pp. 60f.
  37. Ken Follett : The Modigliani Scandal. 25th edition, Bastei Lübbe Taschenbuch, Volume 11675, September 2013.
  38. Piling on the Paint With a trowel in Paris, or Romania. In: New York Times , July 1, 2005, Film Review
This article was added to the list of excellent articles on December 1, 2007 in this version .