Amedeo Modigliani


Artist Biography:

This vivid and decadent Italian artist was born in 1884 in Leghorn of an old and distinguished Jewish family. Despite this background, his home was nearer poverty than wealth. His childhood was dogged by ill-health, and at 17 he was attacked by the tuberculosis which was to speed his early death. He had his first training in Italy, where he visited Rome, Florence and Venice, studying the Italian Masters whom he was always to revere. He attended the Schools of Fine Art in Florence and Venice, and in 1905 or 1906 headed for the artistic mecca of Paris. At this time Modigliani was a handsome, dark-haired young man whose face was described by Zadkine as being "of alabaster whiteness dappled with bluish shadows". His taste for the low life soon jaded his looks, however, and the diminutive of his name, Modi, led to an unfortunate natural corruption by the French, who referred to him as "un peintre maudit", meaning "the accursed painter". Modigliani lived up to his name by living fast and dying young. He was handsome, amorous and addicted to drink and drugs. He said, "I am going to drink myself dead", and he did. Modigliani spent his whole adult life in Paris, being influenced in his work by Toulouse Lautrec at first. However, he was soon recognised for his own real style that was based on African sculpture, Cezanne and Picasso. Above all, Modigliani revelled in his Italian heritage. He was a superb draughtsman and his work contains echoes of Botticelli, making him truly the greatest Italian artist of the 20th century. Modigliani travelled little and exhibited less: twice at the Salon des Independants (1908, 1910), once at the Salon d'Automne (1910) and once at Berthe Weill's Gallery (1918). He developed various liaisons with women, the most important being his long-term affair with Jeanne Hébuterne. She bore him a daughter and was heavily pregnant with his second child when he died in the Hôpital de la Charité in 1920 from tuberculosis, nephritis and debauchery. His last words were "Cara, cara Italia". Jeanne threw herself from a fifth storey window the day after his death, killing herself and their unborn child.

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