Persona March, 24th 2022 by

World Fine Art Professionals and their Key-Pieces, 357 - Amedeo Modigliani

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World Fine Art Professionals and their Key-Pieces, 357 – Amedeo Modigliani
Many of his important works are in museums, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, at the Barnes Foundation, Philadelphia, at Tate Modern, London and the Center Pompidou, Paris. He lived only a short time, but in that short time he had a great production.
In June 2010, Modigliani’s Tête, a limestone sculpture of a woman’s head, sold the third most expensive sculpture ever ($43 million). His 1917 painting, ‘Nu Couché (Sur Le Côté Gauche)’, sold for $157 million in 2018, another painting in the 1917/’18 Nu Couché series sold three years earlier for $170 million.

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Surreal style
Amedeo Clemente Modigliani is an Italian painter and sculptor who worked mainly in France. He is known for his portraits and nudes in a modern style characterized by a surreal elongation of faces, necks and bodies. People thought that was strange. Initially, the public ignored his art. But that, unfortunately for the artist, only changed after his death.

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Modigliani spent his childhood in Italy, where he studied the art of antiquity and the Renaissance. He comes from a Sephardic Jewish family in Livorno, a port city. Livorno was home to a large Jewish community. His maternal great-grandfather, Solomon Garsin, had immigrated to Livorno in the 18th century as a refugee.
Eugénie Garsin, his mother, born and raised in Marseille, came from an intellectual, family of Sephardic descent that had lived for generations along the Mediterranean coast. Her ancestors were authorities on sacred Jewish texts and had founded a school for Talmudic studies. In addition, the family was active in the banking sector with loans, with offices in Marseille, Tunis and London, in addition to Livorno.

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Italian Jewish family
His father, Flaminio, was a member of an Italian-Jewish family of successful businessmen. Although not as cultured as the Garsins, the Modiglianis knew how to invest and how to make businesses thrive. In 1883, however, fortunes turned. An economic downturn in the metal price left the Modiglianis bankrupt.

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Amedeo Modigliani was the fourth child, his birth coincided with the disastrous financial collapse of his father’s business interests. Amedeo’s birth, however, saved the family from destruction. According to an old law, creditors could not seize the bed of a pregnant woman or a mother with a newborn child. The bailiffs broke into the family’s house just as Eugénie was about to give birth. The family protected their most valuable possessions by piling them on top of her body.
Some time later, Modigliani’s always resourceful mother used her social contacts to start a school and, together with her two sisters, made the school a success.

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Spoiled child
His mother was instrumental in many ways in his ability to pursue art as a calling. When he was 11 years old, she had noted in her diary: “The character of the child is still so unformed that I cannot say what I think of it. He behaves like a spoiled child, but he is not lacking in intelligence. We’ll see what’s in this doll. Maybe an artist?”
Modigliani studies from 1898 to 1900 at the art school of Guglielmo Micheli, the master painter of Livorno. The study is steeped in the styles and themes of 19th-century Italian art. The Macchiaioli also influence him. The Macchiaioli painted landscapes in a new style, reacting against the bourgeois style of the academic genre painters.
In 1902 he enrolled in the Scuola Libera di Nudo of the Accademia di Belle Arti in Florence. A year later he moves to Venice, where he registers with the Regia Accademia ed Istituto di Belle Arti. He smokes hashish for the first time in Venice and, influenced by Nietzsche’s ideas, he becomes acquainted with the seedy side of the city.

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Les Chants de Maldoror
As a young boy, he was already exposed to erudite philosophical literature under the care of Isaco Garsin, his maternal grandfather. He continues to read, not just Nietzsche, but Baudelaire, Carducci, Comte de Lautréamont and others. He develops the belief that the only way to true creativity is through resistance and disorder. Les Chants de Maldoror by Lautréamont is his favorite book, he knows entire passages by heart. It is also the favorite book of the surrealists in Paris.

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In 1906 Modigliani moves to Paris, the center of the avant-garde. His arrival coincides with the arrival of two other foreigners who will also leave their mark on the art world: Gino Severini and Juan Gris. He rents a studio in Montmartre. Initially still neatly dressed, within a year he transforms into a prince of vagabonds. Not only does he remove all the trappings of his bourgeois past from his studio, he practically destroys all his early work: ‘childlike Christmas balls, which I made when I was a dirty bourgeois’.

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Unique style
He was constantly sketching and makes a hundred drawings a day. However, many of his works have been lost—destroyed by him as inferior, abandoned by his frequent changes of address, or given to girlfriends who have not kept them. He was initially influenced by Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, but around 1907 he became fascinated by the work of Paul Cézanne. He eventually develops his own unique style.
He creates a series of stylized portraits of artists and friends in Montparnasse: Chaïm Soutine, Moïse Kisling, Pablo Picasso, Diego Rivera, Marie “Marevna” Vorobyev-Stebeslka, Juan Gris, Max Jacob, Jacques Lipchitz, Blaise Cendrars and Jean Cocteau.

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Drink and drugs
His use of alcohol and drugs is increasing. The symptoms of his tuberculosis – which he had suffered from since he was 16 – are getting worse. In search of acceptance, he seeks the company of artists such as Utrillo and Soutine. He continues to work. In 1912, four of his sculptures, together with work by the Cubists, are exhibited at the Salon d’Automne. In 1916 he made one of his most beautiful reclining nudes: Nu Couché au coussin Bleu.
Modigliani, who has only had one solo exhibition in his life, gives away his work at the end of his life in exchange for meals in restaurants.
He died in Paris in 1920, aged 35 and penniless. He becomes the epitome of the tragic artist, creating a posthumous legend almost as great as Vincent van Gogh’s. 

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