I praised Modigliani's sculptured 'Heads' (some 12 are shown in this exhibition) in a previous post, so what do I think of his paintings? A wide variety of opinions circulate about them, at least in London My advice is to make plans to visit this exhibition immediately before it closes in just over a fortnight. Otherwise, again in my opinion, you will miss something strikingly beautiful and, in terms of nudes, strikingly unusual. This is a man who paints a seemly nude. In a pure sense, they are academic nudes, the model's integrity intact. Modigliani was a great deal ahead of his time. And still is.
Friday, 16 March 2018
Tuesday, 13 March 2018
Thursday, 8 March 2018
Go for the sculpture (and the sculptural drawings) not just the nudes
Amedeo Clemente Modigliani made sculpture as well as paintings and drawings. And fine ones. Tate Modern's Modigliani: A Portrait exhibition, showing 11 roomsful of his work, puts his sculpture at the back. If you make your way from the entrance straight to the back (room 5) you'll find the calm and well wrought 'Heads', limestone, sandstone and other building stones carved by the artist from about 1908 onwards and particularly in a 2-year burst of creative energy in the years 1911 to 1913 between the ages of 26 and 28. They come, like the sculptural drawings and paintings, from generous lenders from Walsall (the Garman Ryan Collection) to Washington.
Modigliani's sculptures were inspired by the time he and many of his fellow artists, living in (of course) Paris, paid visits to the Ethnographic Museum (now the Musée de l'Homme). As the reader will know, the first time any artistic sensibility sees work originally created in unknown lands - Africa, Asia, Cambodia, Côte d'Ivoire - not to mention from the Ancients of Egypt, Greece and Rome - many doors in the mind open.
Woman's Head (With Chignon)
572 x 219 x 235 mm
394 x 311 x 187 mm
Harvard Art Museums/Fogg
Museum, Gift of Lois Orswell
and Fellows of Harvard College
And of course there are painted nudes aplenty, many gazing towards the viewer, and, deliberately so for the time, to the potential male buyer. This may be unworthy but I write this on International Women's Day: Modigliani's portraits of his friends, fellow artists and acquaintances also reward study - none of them, being men, are portrayed nude of course. Particularly interesting is his portrait of his first dealer, Paul Guillaume, smoking a cigarette. Modigliani has angled the face so that the nose and mouth appear bright and lively, gradually recessing the cheeks in a series of shadowy triangles, a stubbly effect that seems to suggest the way the sitter draws the cigarette smoke into himself.
Modigliani died of substance abuse and the tuberculosis that had dogged him since the age of 16 at the age of 35. His partner, the artist Jeanne Hébuterne with whom he had a child, pregnant with a second child, killed herself a few days after his death. She was 21. In the Tate shop, for £20, you can buy a Jeanne Hébuterne cushion cover. You can sit on her. In this reviewer's opinion, a little more decorum might have been exercised here. Again, this effect might have been mitigated by a partner cushion portraying the artist in one of his self-portraits.
Forthcoming: comments on the paintings