Amedeo Modigliani: Italian Lover Till the Very End

Amedeo Modiglaini was born to paint in a very unique space and time. The time he lived in was like one of those famous and incredible tales about painters: The usual struggle to live, the usual violent parties ending in drunkenness, surrounded by women, and the usual end at an early age.

Amedeo Modigliani struggled with poverty all his life. He had a short and rebellious existence, difficult and restless. Amedeo Modigliani lived his life in freedom, the freedom of the mind and soul, despite the fact that his body imprisoned him most of his life. He was desired by women and some great artists and collectors of those times. The irony is the freedom he so ardently wanted, but which his body didn’t let him live. Nevertheless, he knew how to live his freedom through art.

Modigliani - Portrait of Jeanne Hebuterne - The love of his life.Amedeo Modigliani’s art cannot be categorized in a specific style, such as Modigliani himself who is unique. His life is characterized by one of his biographers as “a prolonged suicide and his work the victory of an immortal spirit.” Few people know the feeling of suffocation that a disease can give you, that feeling of heaviness and lack of oxygen, which ironically, makes you see life without constraints and makes you reprogram your priorities so you feel as free as you can. Just as few people know the freedom you can touch through creativity.

Amedeo Modigliani had a frail body, which made him have a life considered by some as being messy, but for him, it meant freedom, the freedom to paint what he wanted, to drink and smoke hashish when he wanted and to experience carnal love.

Modi, as he was called by his family, had always needed special attention because of his health problems: at eleven years old he made a pleuritis, two years later he had typhus with pulmonary complications, and at seventeen, he became ill with tuberculosis, a disease which will prove fatal. The more the disease seized him, the ardent was Modi’s will to live life as if he was on unimaginable heights, as if he wouldn’t reach the next day. And the freedom he felt in his soul was poured over his brush with which he painted especially portraits and very few landscapes. Amedeo manifested himself through painting as if the artistic imagination represented the getaway from the weakness of the body. His life has been strewn with many stories about the famous personalities of Paris fellowship, artists, poets and intellectuals of Montmartre and Montaparnasse. In his art, he was influenced by Cezanne, the Cubists and minimalist ideas that the Romanian sculptor Constantin Brancusi had.

Legend has it that his mother Eugenia Garsin, with the bailiff at the door, hid valuables under the bed were in just a few minutes, she gave birth to the last of her four children, Amedeo, on 12 July 1884. Dodi’s father, Flamingo Modigliani was the owner of a bank that had just gone bankrupt. Modi had a keen interest in reading. He was in love with Baudelaire’s and D’Anunzio’s poetry and Nietzsche’s philosophy, but as a child he had shown a remarkable inclination for drawing.

His first “scratches” on two illustrated books date from 1893 and became famous through the Archives Grimani – Servolini. He acquired art studies from various Livorno masters. His first love was old Italian art, especially Renaissance creations, which he had the opportunity to see in his journey to southern Italy in the search of a warmer climate that could relieve his breathing problems.

Paris’s lights had attracted his attention in the spring of 1906, when he decided to try the French adventure. He enrolled at the Academy Colarossi from rue Grande-Chaumiere in Montparnasse, where prestigious students had passed such as Rodin, Wistler, Cezanne and Gauguin. Young Modigliani was quickly integrated into the Paris life, full of cafés, theaters and nightlife, and became a dominant member of the group Diego Rivera, Chaim Soutine, Max Jacobs and others. His first supporter was Dr. Paul Alexandre, who in addition to the materials, he assured Modi a roof over his head. Among the artists who gravitated around Alexandre was Constantin Brancusi, a sculptor much older than Modigliani and who showed him the tribal and primitive art. Another artist who attended the same circles was Pablo Picasso, but between the two had never been a friendship, but rather a rivalry.

Modigliani’s official debut among Parisian artists took place through the presence of six of his paintings at the 1908s Salon: “Idol”, two drawings, two nudes, “Bust of a young woman” and “Seated Nude” and the famous painting called “The Jew Woman” . At that time, he tries to sculpt, an art which he declares to be his life first and true passion. Since 1913, Amedeo’s life becomes much harder and fuller of insufficiencies caused by food shortages, hashish, alcohol and by the dust, he inspired while sculpting. It is said that at one time, weakened by illness, Modi fainted and was convinced by friends to return to Livorno, where he could get better.

However, already the spirit of Paris was part of himself, so shortly after he joined the French artists again. Its searches in the painting field will go towards purity, the eternal and timeless faces. Most of his close friends became subjects for his portraits such as Chaim Soutine, Diego Rivera, Max Jacobs, Jaques Lipchitz.

His original style, turned to the purity of art will reach maturity in around 1914. In the same year, his first serious relationship begins with the young English writer Beatrice Hastings, with whom Modi will stay two years. Until then, his relationships with women were short, tumultuous and largely fueled by physical impulses. They were one-night stands, to whom Amedeo devoted countless graceful and melancholy nudes. However, his true love, with whom he stayed until the end of his life, was the shy and reserved Jeanne Hebuterne.

To her he dedicated most of his woman portraits, but never nudes. Living together was not easy. Modigliani had no money to support his family. They often moved from one location to another, living on the edge of poverty. In addition, the artist continued his disorderly life, with parties and drunkenness. This type of life did not last for long. In January 1920, Amedeo had lost his conscious and was transported to a hospital but could not be saved.

Modi’s love story had an unexpected and tragic end. After hearing about Amedeo’s death, Jeanne, who was nine months pregnant, thrown herself from the fifth floor window of her parental home. The huge love that she felt for Modi made her choose death over life.

Unfortunately, Amedeo Modigliani’s portraits haven’t attracted a lot of attention from the critics during his lifetime. The first real contact with the public took place two years after his death in 1922, on the occasion of the Thirteenth Biennial of Art in Venice. However, his paintings haven’t received praise from Italian critics. He rather received fame and recognition abroad in France or USA. Now, “Nude Sitting on a Divan” is Amedeo’s most expensive painting. It was estimated at $ 69 million.

His drawing was a silent conversation. A line of dialogue between our faces and his lines. Modigliani’s portraits are not a reflection of its external line, but of his interior, his noble, acute, agile and dangerous grace” – Jean Conteau

About the Author

"In order to learn to draw you must learn to see" is the quote that inspired me to seek beauty in life, not only in art. I also may say that life is the best theme in art. I let drawing be only a hobby for me so I would never lose my passion by turning it into an every-day job. That is why I decided to write about art. Cristiana Dumitru lives in Bucharest, Romania, besides art she is also a news presenter on Radio ZU, the national Romanian radio.