It will come as no surprise to people who know me, that I am a huge fan of Modigliani, and have been for years. His life was both fascinating and tragic. Born in 1884 in Livorno, Tuscany, Italy and died at just 35 years old in 1920, Paris France after suffering from Tubercular Meningitis.
Modigliani was not just a painter, in fact he was primarily a sculptor. He did have his work exhibited in the Salon d’Automne in 1912, but by 1914 he had pretty much abandoned sculpting to concentrate solely on his painting. His sculptures are incredibly rare, and much like his paintings, now sell for millions if they come up at auction.
In June 2010 his limestone carving of a woman’s head became the second most expensive sculpture ever sold. It made a record 43.2 million Euros at Christie’s Auction house in Paris, France.
It was in 1917 that he was introduced to a 19-year-old art student called Jeanne Hebuterne. Modigliani was 33 at the time, but it is not hard to see the attraction! They soon had an affair, fell in love, and despite objections from her parents she moved in with him.
In 1918 she gave birth to their daughter (also named Jeanne). They never married, in fact it wasn’t until she became pregnant for the second time in 1919 that they finally became engaged. While she is best known as his ‘common law wife’ and the subject of many of his paintings, Jeanne herself was an artist who had a talent for drawing. Her work would not be shown to the public until the year 2000.
Sadly by 1919, Modigliani’s health had deteriorated. He was suffering from tuberculous meningitis, which was made worse due to his substance and alcohol abuse. He died in 1920 and just one day after his funeral, Jeanne returned to her parents home desolate and inconsolable with grief only to throw herself out of their fifth floor window killing both herself and her unborn child.
The painting to the left, titled “Jeanne Hebuterne Au Chaupo painted in 1919 sold for $16.4 million dollars at auction in 2006. When it was put up for auction again in 2013 – it sold for a staggering $42.1 million dollars.
Luckily for me, back in 2005, I attended a Modigliani exhibition in Toronto, Canada. It was the first time I had seen any of his work ‘in the flesh’. To say I was blown away would be an understatement. Photographs rarely do justice to art work.
I was also given a copy of “Modigliani – Beyond the Myth”.
It is by far my most prized ‘art’ book. It is well over 200 pages, full of his drawings, sculptures and paintings as well as a lot of information on his life. I have since picked up a few old books written about him, but this book is the one that inspired me to ‘have a go’ at painting my very own versions – being short of a few million dollars to ever own an original!
I have painted in oils, watercolour and ink and also a couple of digital versions (not shown). Below are some of my attempts. (A couple are cropped to make use of the canvas I had at the time). The sizes range from about 8 x 10 inches, to 24 x 36 inches.