Reclining Nude (Céline Howard)
Private collection, Geneva
The exhibition will attempt to reveal the great strength of the paintings of Modigliani, which only at first glance seem to be very much alike. It wants to demonstrate how the artist with the formal unity of his creativity, often connected with the red file of melancholy, reached an individuality of representation, which one can not resist. Originally oriented at dominant art currents of his time he very soon finds his own style and sticks faithfully to the object known to him and pays it affectionate respect. All his works document the restless manner of life of an artist full of relish, who in great sadness is fully aware of his vulnerability and his mortality from his childhood on and who needs the euphoria of the intoxication, in order to live and work.
April 17th until August 30th, 2009
The Italian Amedeo Modigliani (1884-1920) was painter, draughtsman and sculptor. His life work comprises above all paintings (approximately 420) and drawings (approximately 1000). From 1909 to 1913 he has also devoted himself to sculpture and left approximately 25 pieces.
His most important subject are portraits and nudes. He elaborates the individuality of depicted persons and maintains at the same time his formal, painterly distinctiveness. Apart from that there are very few pure landscape paintings. From the view point of an art historian one is tempted to qualify them as an earlier works, but in Modigliani's career it stands for the quietness after a period of exhaustion. Not to be overlooked in Modigliani's paintings is their relationship to the language of the styles of renaissance and mannerism. He combines expressionist, cubist and symbolistic elements but as well takes up figures of the African sculpture, popular at his time, which fascinated him because of their idolatry. He can not be classified as belonging clearly to any of the contemporary styles like cubism or fauvism.
Modigliani spent his youth in Italy, where he studied the art of antiquity and of the renaissance before he moved to Paris in 1906, already aware of the works of the impressionists and the symbolists. He moved into a studio on Montmartre, later on Montparnasse and was permanent part of the bohemian artist scene there. German painter Ludwig Meidner was among his first friends in the Parisian years before the first World War.
1907 was a decisive year in his artistic career, because he became acquainted with the young doctor Paul Alexandre, who from that time on supported him with purchases and contacts. The study of the finely coined cubistic works of Cézanne seems to have become a model for him and to have given him the artistic freedom to use deformation, extension into overlength and idealisation as stylistic devices for a yet individualistic expression. Also Picasso's pre-cubist works of the pink period are important bases for the figure in his painterly effort.
In the beginning of 1917 Modigliani got to know the 19 year old art student Jeanne Hébuterne and it can surely be said that the most quiet and devoted portraits were created in those years. Modigliani and she left Paris together with the Zborowskis and Modigliani's friend Chaim Soutine, when in 1918 an invasion of German troops threatened and went to live on the French coast of the Mediterranean. Little is known about the year in southern France, because there are hardly any written documents. It is however certain, that in November 1918 Jeanne Hébuterne gave birth to a daughter of the same name in Nice.
In the spring of 1919 Modigliani returned with Jeanne Hébuterne to Paris, where he got engaged with her over the summer and where they expected their second child. He participated in the "Salon d'Automne" and for the first time his works were through Zborowski shown outside of Paris in England. Even if he still lived on the edge of financial existence and survived and kept working only with the help of friends and sponsors, this year seems to take a positive trend for him.
All the more bitter was the blow when at the end of the year he got ill of tuberculosis and died on January 24th, 1920. Only one day later Jeanne Hébuterne committed suicide by throwing herself out of the window and thereby killed her unborn child as well. Modigliani was buried on the cemetery of Père Lachaise with great public sympathy and Jeanne Hébuterne was later buried at his side, after her family had given up their resistance.