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Amedeo Modigliani (Italian, 1884-1920)

Paintings

Also known as:  Modigliani, Amadeo

Birth Place: Livorno (Livorno province, Tuscany, Italy)

Biography:
Amedeo Clemente Modigliani (1884 – 1920), a Jewish Italian painter and sculptor, worked mainly in France on portraits and nudes developing a spare, modern style of elongated faces and figures. In his youth in Italy, Modigliani studied ancient and Renaissance art. His main subjects were portraits and full human figures in both painting and sculpture.

His mother enrolled him in Guglielmo Micheli's Art School from 1898 to 1900, when the onset of tuberculosis forced him to cease his studies. While with Micheli, Modigliani studied portraiture, still life, and the nude. The last was where he displayed his greatest talent. In 1902, Modigliani enrolled in the Scuola Libera di Nudo, "Free School of the Nude," of theAccademia di Belle Arti in Florence.

In 1906, Modigliani moved to Paris and settled in a Montmartre commune for artists, renting a studio in the Rue Caulaincourt. When he first arrived, he wrote home regularly to his mother, sketched nudes at the Académie Colarossi, and drank moderately. Within a year, however, he transformed himself from an artistic academic into a vagabond. His disorderly studio reflected his descent into alcoholism and drug addiction.

During his early years in Paris, Modigliani worked furiously, producing as many as 100 drawings in a day. First influenced by Toulouse-Lautrec, Modigliani later became interested in the work of Cézanne. Eventually he developed his own unique style distinct from that of any other artist.

Originally Modigliani saw himself as a sculptor rather than a painter. Paul Guillaume, an ambitious art dealer, introduced him to Romanian sculptor Constantin Brâncusi, who became his mentor for a year. Although he exhibited four elongated, highly stylized, sculpted heads in the 1912 annual Salon d'Automne, Modigliani abandoned sculpture in 1914 to focus solely on painting. The difficulty in procuring sculptural materials in wartime and the artist's worsening physical state influenced this shift.

At the outset of WWI, Modigliani wanted to enlist in the army but was rejected for his poor health. In 1916, he befriended the Polish poet and art dealer Léopold Zborowski, who became his primary art dealer and friend in his last years, helping him financially and organizing a 1917 Paris exhibition of his work. Between 1916 and 1919 Modigliani painted several dozen nudes commissioned by Zborowski, who supplied models and painting materials and paid him each day for his work. The 1917 Paris show, Modigliani's only solo exhibition during his lifetime, was a public sensation closed by police on its opening day but reopened after the removal of exhibits from the gallery's street display window. La belle romaine, "Nude Sitting on a Divan," one the seven nudes exhibited in the 1917 show, sold for $68.9 million in 2010.

During his lifetime, Modigliani sold a number of his paintings but none for much money. What money he made from them soon vanished into his profligate lifestyle.

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