Pola museum of art

FINDING MODIGLIANI: From Parisian Avant-garde to Classicism

Amedeo Modigliani (1884-1920) was an Italian-born painter and sculptor who played an important role in the École de Paris, the group of artists from around the world who gathered in the great art center of Paris in the early twentieth century. He became a legendary figure as an artist who did not receive the recognition he deserved and died prematurely because of his dissolute lifestyle. This exhibition explores Modigliani’s life and art, which is surrounded by myth and legend, in the context of the art of his time and attempts to reevaluate his historical position, which needs greater consideration. Modigliani was born in Livorno, a port city in the Tuscan region of northern Italy, and he came to Paris in 1906 at age 21. At that time, Paris was the site of a flowering of diverse art movements, including Post-Impressionism, represented by Cézanne, the avant-garde movements of Fauvism and Cubism, and Primitivism, which reflected a growing interest in African and Oceanic sculpture and masks. Although stimulated by these influences, Modigliani chose an individual path in art and pursued his own ideals, carving out a unique place for himself in the art world of Paris during a decade of turbulent change. Where should we look to find what Modigliani accomplished during this period? The exhibition has been divided into four periods and places, “1906-1909: Rue de Delta, Montmartre, Paris,” “1909-1914: Cité Falguière, Montparnasse, Paris,” “1915-1918: Café la Rotonde, Montparnasse, Paris,” and “1918-1920: Nice and Paris.” We hope that this method of presentation will provide a novel and livelier picture of Modigliani and his art.


(C)Rex Features/PPS Amedeo Modigliani


Section 1. 1906-1909: Rue de Delta, Montmartre, Paris

Amedeo Modigliani, born in the port city of Livorno in the region of Tuscany in northern Italy, first arrived in Paris in 1906 and settled in Montmartre, where many other artists had gathered. He began associating with artists of the same generation, quickly becoming acquainted with Pablo Picasso, who lived in a communal residence with studios called the Bateau-Lavoir, where he became a regular visitor, and meeting Maurice Utrillo at the cabaret Au Lapin Agile. He also developed a friendship with Paul Alexandre, a doctor and art lover who supported an artists’ commune on the rue de Delta in Montmartre where Modigliani began visiting and working around 1907. Alexandre recognized the young painter’s talent, purchased some of his paintings and provided him with financial support, and accompanied him to galleries and museums. He was a valuable friend with a deep appreciation of Modigliani’s artistic interests.

In Italy Modigliani had studied figure drawing and aspired to become a sculptor, but in Paris he was stimulated by the great diversity of painterly expression that he saw there. Modigliani’s figure paintings of this period were influenced by the incisive line drawing of Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec and the paintings of Paul Cézanne, Paul Gauguin, and Picasso in his blue period.


Amedeo Modigliani, Portrait of Dr. Paul Alexandre on a Brown Background, 1909, The Yamazaki Mazak Museum of Art


Amedeo Modigliani, Portrait of a Young Girl in Blue Blouse, ca. 1910, Hiroshima Museum of Art


Pablo Picasso, Mother and Child by the Sea, 1902, Pola Museum of Art
2014-Succession Pablo Picasso-SPDA(JAPAN)

Section 2. 1909-1914: Cité Falguière, Montparnasse, Paris

Around 1908, Modigliani met the sculptor Constantin Brancusi in the commune on rue de Delta. Brancusi aroused his passion for carving directly in stone, a technique he had often seen in Italy. The next year he moved to Cité Falguière, a communal studio on the rue de Falguière in Montparnasse, where he began working side by side with Brancusi. As he began working with stone, Modigliani became interested in caryatids, human figures that were part of a column or beam in ancient Greek architecture. It is likely that he regarded the expression of balance between a heavy weight and the force supporting it in a human figure as an artistic ideal. In the process of making caryatids, Modigliani also produced carved heads and a huge number of drawings. During this period, the figures and masks of Africa and Oceania were attracting a great deal of interest in Paris, and their strong, simple forms influenced the work of many avant-garde artists. Modigliani was no exception, and this influence can be seen in the boldly simplified forms of his stone heads. Picasso responded to this trend, known as Primitivism, in the experiments that led to Cubism, a movement with an important influence on the Parisian avant-garde in the early teens of the twentieth century. Modigliani, however, kept a distance from particular art movements as he carried on his unique explorations of the caryatid form. Unfortunately, he had to give up making sculpture around 1914 because of the great physical and financial burden that came with carving stone. His poverty and lack of success drove him to excessive drinking and his life became more and more dissolute.

アメディオ・モディリアーニ 頭部

Amedeo Modigliani, The Head, ca. 1911-1912, The Hakone Open-Air Museum


Amedeo Modigliani, Caryatid, 1911-13, Aichi Prefectural Museum of Art

ina668-437Léonard Foujita, Cubistic Still Life, 1914, Pola Museum of Art

Section 3. 1915-1918: Café la Rotonde, Montparnasse, Paris

When Modigliani began painting again, he turned to the exploration of ideal forms in portraiture. Friends and lovers posed for him, and he visited the Café la Rotonde at the Vavin intersection in Montparnasse daily in search of models. In drawing people he met at the café, he experimented with the use of clear outlines in portraying the human figure.
Two young art dealers, Paul Guillaume and Léopold Zborowski, were among the first to pay attention to these paintings characterized by linear depiction of form. Through the efforts of these dealers and André Salmon, a friend and critic, Modigliani’s paintings gradually became better known in Paris during the era of the First World War. Along with Picasso, Kisling and de Chirico, he came to be seen as an avant-garde artist who was representative of his age.
In 1917, the only solo exhibition Modigliani was given during his lifetime was held at the Galerie Berthe Weill in Paris, but his nudes were considered obscene and removed from the gallery on opening day. This official action dampened the response to the show and Modigliani’s circumstances remained unchanged. His paintings of this period, in addition to highly expressive line drawing and rich development of color, showed steady progress in their innovative formal structure.


Amedeo Modigliani, Reclining Nude with Loose Hair, 1917, Osaka City Museum of Modern Art


Amedeo Modigliani, Portrait of Lunia Czechowska, 1917, Pola Museum of Art

Section 4. 1918-1920: Nice and Paris

In the spring of 1918, Modigliani traveled to Nice in southern France to restore his health while escaping the horrors of the First World War and the threat of Spanish influenza. He was accompanied by his lover, Jeanne Hébuterne, who was pregnant with his child.
In southern France Modigliani worked together with his friends Léonard Foujita and Chaim Soutine. It was difficult to find models in this region, but Modigliani asked farmers and children to pose for him and painted their portraits. Since he had been born and raised in Tuscany, Modigliani was already familiar with the intense sunlight of the Mediterranean coast, but this stay in southern France made him more aware of the rich possibilities of color. Strong outlines that carved out the form disappeared from his paintings, and they became characterized by a harmonious blending of sinuous, elegant line and bright, transparent color. His figures came to resemble those of Sandro Botticelli and the Sienna School, who were active during the early Renaissance in his native country.
After returning to Paris, he worked furiously, creating large numbers of paintings in his house on the rue de la Grande-Chaumière in the neighborhood of Montparnasse. Sadly, his self-destructive way of life and continuing poor health led to an early death at the age of 35 on January 24, 1920.


Amedeo Modigliani, Portrait of a Woman, 1917, Private Collection


Amedeo Modigliani, Portrait of a Young Farmer, ca. 1918, Bridgestone Museum of Art, Ishibashi Foundation


Chaim Soutine, Portrait of a Child in Blue, 1928, Pola Museum of Art