Monday Lectures

7 December 2020

The Portraits of Amedeo Modigliani, 1907-1920

Amedeo Modigliani, Jeanne Hébuterne, 1919, Private Collection 

The artist's last tragic girlfriend

Amedeo Modigliani‘s (1884-1920) career in Paris was very brief – a mere 13 years – but his paintings have remained among the best known and most popular works of art of the early 20th century.

 

Modigliani was one the few early Modernists who concentrated on the figurative portrait as his main subject, at a time when most of his friends and colleagues were leaning toward abstract or near-abstract styles like Cubism. He painted virtually all the avant-garde artists, writers, poets, critics and art dealers of Paris in the heroic years of Modernism (1907-1920), thereby creating a gallery of portraits unparalleled in the history of modern art.

 

 

Though abandoning traditional realism, he remained sensitive to the individual features, personality, social class and psychological aura of his subjects, often infusing his depictions with a quality of wit and humor that show up the foibles and pretensions of the “monstres sacrés” – like Pablo Picasso and Jean Cocteau - of an extraordinary era.

Amedeo Modigliani, Chaim Soutine, 1917, National Gallery of Art, Washington.

Fellow painter and close friend.