Fig.1 Amedeo Modigliani, Nude, 1917, Private Collection

After a decadent life seeped in drugs and alcohol, the painter Modigliani died at the young age of 35. The Tate Modern is holding a retrospective that includes 100 of his works until April 2, 2018.

A Sculptor’s Approach

The most famous work by Modigliani is his nudes (fig. 1). In a simplified form, the women exude a sad and sultry beauty. Modigliani cultivated this style when he worked in sculpture before he gave up that art form due to poor health arising from poverty. From 1909 to 1916, Modigliani intermittently created pieces influenced by Greek sculptures from the Archaic Period and African masks. When his focus returned to painting, he incorporated lines that looked like they had been carved with a chisel.

The Avant-garde Painter Modigliani

Fig.2 Amedeo Modigliani, The Little Peasant, c.1918 ©Tate

Modigliani’s 1916 to 1917 nude women series can be viewed as his ambitious endeavor of this period. He joined exhibitions alongside artists such as Pablo Picasso, Moise Kisling and Giorgio de Chirico, at the same time garnering attention as one of the avant-garde painters of the era. He held the only solo exhibition during his lifetime “Paintings and Drawings of Modigliani” at the Galerie Berthe Weill. But on the opening day, police demanded the removal of a nude displayed in the window on grounds that it was obscene. There was virtually no response from critics.

Amid the Gentle Light of the Southern France

In 1918, fleeing World War I battles and the Spanish flu, Modigliani followed the art dealer Zborowski to Nice. The farmers he met in Southern France depicted in The Little Peasant (fig. 2) reveal a sense of simplicity and peace unseen before in his works. The harmony of beautiful lines and translucent bright colors brought a unique spirituality to his paintings. The longing for tranquility and tradition was a stance shared widely by Picasso and other avant-garde artists, but for Modigliani, it was due to the Sienese School and 13th and 14th century Italian art that had captured his heart as a youth.

MODIGLIANI : Until 2 April 2018

Tate Modern

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