Amedeo Modigliani

The complete artist of the Parisian Avant-garde

Dessin de l'artise de l'avant garde parisienne Amedeo Modigliani dessinateur, peintre et sculpteur

Amedeo Modigliani

LIVOURNE 1884 – PARIS 1920

Amedeo Modigliani, an emblematic figure of the complete artist of the Parisian Bohemian scene of the 1910s, is recognized as one of the most significant artists of the early 20th-century Avant-Garde. His influence extends across his paintings, sculptures, but especially through his clean and synthetic drawings that capture the essence of his art and his career, though too brief.

Born in Livorno, Tuscany, on July 12, 1884, into a Jewish family of merchants, Amedeo Modigliani was a fragile child but passionate about art from a young age. Afflicted by typhoid and tuberculosis, he narrowly escaped death several times, prompting his mother to encourage him to pursue artistic studies under the Livorno painter Micheli. As a teenager, she also encouraged him to recuperate in southern Italy. Between 1900 and 1902, he sojourned in Naples, Capri, Florence, and Rome, where he immersed himself in antiquities that significantly influenced his drawings and sculptures. His work is heavily influenced by Antiquity, as evidenced by his numerous depictions of caryatids and female figures inspired by Hellenistic art.

In 1906, Amedeo Modigliani settled in Paris and immersed himself in the bohemian life of Montmartre, frequenting places like the Bateau-Lavoir, much like Picasso. A year later, he met the young doctor Paul Alexandre, who, freshly graduated at 26, made available to his artist friends a pavilion on rue du Delta in Montmartre, slated for demolition. Among the regulars at the Delta was Constantin Brancusi, whose influence would lead Modigliani towards sculpture, as well as Henri Doucet, who introduced the impoverished painter to Dr. Alexandre. Immediately captivated, the latter became his main admirer and sole patron. “I was immediately struck by his extraordinary talent and wanted to do something for him. I bought drawings and canvases from him, but I was his only buyer and I wasn’t rich,” recalls Dr. Alexandre.

Dessin de Pierrot d'Amedeo Modigliani - personnage de Pierrot à la collerette dessin de la collection Paul Alexandre
Amedeo Modigliani - Pierrot à la collerette dessin au crayon gras

Despite his poverty, Modigliani refuses to stray from his artistic path. While other artists in the Delta pavilion work alongside their art as waiters or laborers to support themselves, Modigliani rejects any job that might distract him from his passion. “He desired only his art […] he was a born aristocrat. […] He had an exclusive passion for art. There was no question of abandoning, even for a moment, for tasks he considered base, what constituted his reason for being.”

Amedeo Modigliani - Dessin d'un nu allongé datant de 1908 dessin au fusain
Amedeo Modigliani - Nu allongé, vers 1908 dessin au fusain

During this period, Modigliani develops a style of spontaneous drawing characterized by clear and simplified lines, always inspired by direct observation and aimed at capturing the inner essence of his subject. He thus defines his artistic approach: “With one eye, observe the outside world, with the other, look deep within oneself.” He devotes a significant amount of time to drawing, repeating the same lines and patterns until achieving the sought-after purity of line. Concurrently, sculpture becomes his main focus from 1909 onwards. Before directly sculpting, he extensively practices through drawing. His preferred subjects are his female muses, nudes, as well as themes inspired by Antiquity, such as caryatids, or even the world of theater and circus, which he loves and which is very present in his social circle at the Delta.

Paul Alexandre commissions portraits from him and introduces him in 1910 to the Salon des Artistes Indépendants, where Modigliani exhibits six of his paintings.

Peinture d'Amedeo Modigliani la rêveuse : nu féminin allongé sur un sofa rouge
La rêveuse, 1917 59,7x92,1 cm, coll. privée

In 1914, Dr. Alexandre’s mobilization for the war marks the end of their relationship and the definitive separation of the two friends. Modigliani then finds a new exclusive patron in Paul Guillaume until 1916, when Léopold Zborowski, a Polish poet, becomes his dealer and agent. In 1917, he meets Jeanne Hébuterne, a young art student, who becomes his final muse, inspiring his series of large nudes, and with whom he will have a daughter, Jeanne. Despite his struggle with alcoholism and tuberculosis, he dies in hospital in Paris on January 24, 1920, at the age of only 35. Deeply affected, Jeanne Hébuterne commits suicide two days later and is buried in a common grave at Père Lachaise alongside Modigliani.

Although 80% of Modigliani’s 337 paintings were executed between 1914 and 1919 and represent the style of his later years, his drawings throughout his career offer a better representation of his overall work as a complete artist.

The works of Amedeo Modigliani presented by galerie theophanos