Amedeo Clemente Modigliani

July 12, 1884


Portrait of a Woman with Hat, Amedeo Modigliani
Portrait of a Woman with Hat, Amedeo Modigliani

Like Vincent Van Gogh, Modigliani was a prolific artist (at one point, he completed as many as 100 drawings daily) with a unique style who died at a tragically young age. And, also like Van Gogh, Modigliani died before his paintings became beloved and valued.

Modigliani was born in Tuscany and was drawn to art at a very young age. He suffered from health problems, including pleurisy, typhoid fever and tuberculosis, which eventually killed him at age 35–that and a lifestyle plagued with excess. Fans describe Modigliani as a “bohemian artist par excellence.”

Modigiliani Sitting-female-nude-small
Sitting Female Nude, Amedeo Modigliani

Modigliani only held one solo exhibit during his lifetime. Unfortunately, the Chief of Police in Paris was scandalized by Modigliani’s nudes and forced him to close the exhibition within a few hours after it opened.

Art historians are interested in who–and what–influences artists. We know Modigliani was influenced by Henri De Toulouse-Lautrec, Pablo Picasso and Paul Cezanne; however the Modigliani Foundation writes:

In Modigliani’s art, there is evidence of the influence of art from Africa and Cambodia which he may have seen in the Musee de l’Homme, but his stylizations are just as likely to have been the result of his being surrounded by Mediceval sculpture during his studies in Northern Italy (there is no recorded information from Modigliani himself, as there is with Picasso and others, to confirm the contention that he was influenced by either ethnic or any other kind of sculpture). A possible interest in African tribal masks seems to be evident in his portraits. In both his painting and sculpture, the sitters’ faces resemble ancient Egyptian painting in their flat and mask-like appearance, with distinctive almond eyes, pursed mouths, twisted noses, and elongated necks. However these same characteristics are shared by Mediceval European sculpture and painting.

Sculpture, Amedeo Modigliani
Female Nude, Amedeo Modigliani


Modigliani was also the subject of a 2004 semi-biographical movie in which Andy Garcia played the part of the artist.

Portrait of Chaim Soutine, Amedeo Modigliani
Portrait of Chaim Soutine, Amedeo Modigliani

I am drawn to Modigliani’s portraits. I love their simplicity and earthiness. They are a bit mysterious and hint at an underlying story, much like Edward Hopper’s paintings do (to me, at least). When I see Modigliani’s portraits in museums, I just want to stare at the face, willing it to share its story. I also love the sound of his name, perhaps because I’m drawn to all things Italian. Isn’t that a silly reason to like an artist!

Do you have a favorite Modigliani painting or sculpture? Share in the comments below.

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