Amedeo Modigliani (Italian, born July 12, 1884–died January 24, 1920) was a painter and sculptor who developed a unique, Modern style, notable for its elongated forms and mask-like faces. Born into a Jewish family in Livorno, Tuscany, Modigliani is known to have sketched and painted from a very early age, and enrolled at the Accademia di Belle Arti in Florence in 1902, followed by the Instituto di Belle Arti in 1903. In 1906, Modigliani moved to Paris and settled in the artistic community of Le Bateau-Lavoir, where he would primarily reside for the rest of his life. The city at the time was the center of the avant-garde and artistic experimentation, and Modigliani encountered and assimilated the artistic influence of works by Paul Cézanne, Pablo Picasso, and Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec.

The young artist’s friendship with Constantin Brancusi sparked his interest in sculpture, informing Modigliani’s later artistic tendencies of strong, linear rhythms and protracted vertical forms. After 1915, Modigliani devoted himself exclusively to painting. The influence of sculpture—and particularly African masks—was prominent in the mask-like treatment of his subjects’ faces: flat, with almond eyes, twisted noses, and elongated necks. Modigliani’s sitters were largely his friends and contemporary artists, including Chaïm Soutine, Max Jacob, Moïse Kisling, and Diego Rivera. His seated portraits—along with his series of reclining nudes—exemplified his style of graceful arabesques and simplified forms.

Modigliani’s chronic ill health and addiction to drinking and drugs resulted in his rapidly deteriorating state, however, and he died of tubercular meningitis in Paris at the age of 35.

Literature

Nadine NIESZAWER ”Peintres juifs de l’Ecole de Paris 1905-1939” Editions Denoël Paris 2000