Sunday, December 3, 2017

Amedeo Modigliani

Reclining Nude with Necklace

One of the more romantic artists of the School of Paris although it should be known as the School of Montmartre and Montparnasse was Amedeo Modigliani. A group of artists intent on searching for an alternative direction to Cubism and Abstraction  that were  occupying central stage in Paris' artistic direction at the time.
Their life style promoted the idea of an artistic Bohemia on both the right and left banks of the Seine. Modigliani although of modest means presented himself according to Ossip Zadkine as ' a young god masquerading as a workman in his Sunday best'. Charming and generous without fault, but intent on self destruction. A fine draftsman but his lack of money forced him to spend hours sitting in bars and cafes creating portraits in exchange for drinks or a meal.
Like many artists at the time Modigliani was greatly influenced by African sculpture, features he incorporated into his sculptures and painting. Poverty forced him to abandon sculpture in favour of painting as it was always difficulty to move heavy pieces of marble in the middle of the night in order to avoid paying rent.
Since my youth I have always admired his work, due no doubt to my art studies at Julian Ashton Art School in Sydney were an academic approach to art education was the order of the day. Modigliani's paintings  revolve around the human face and female figure were he freely used African artistic features  His search for new ways to portray reality within a traditional format offered both a dramatic and engaging new language to the viewer. As a painter he seems to have discarded much of the subject matter of many artists. There are no landscapes, still-life and little supporting structural interiors.


Madam Pompadour
Lunia Czechoxska

Paintings such as "Antonio" and Madam Pompadour illustrate his desire to incorporate cubist observation of Cezanne as well as expressionistic treatment within a realistic tradition. Both portraits and figure paintings exemplify an almost formulaic treatment of heads and necks that disregard realistic proportions. Not the drawing of noses, eyes and mouths. The elongated necks and simplified almost abstracted backgrounds. There is little attempt to place sitters in any realistic setting. Whether Modigliani if he had lived longer would have arrived at abstraction is debateable.

This approach is carried over into his figure paintings such as "Reclining Nude and "Lunia Czechowska". No use of tone rather space has been created by the juxtaposition of shapes and colour. While his paintings appear realistic they are distortions that border on the expressionistic nudes of Otto Mueller.