In my planning for next year I'll be doing a unit based on Modigliani. Never having learned about him, I started to read a few books and online articles to find out more about his life. Turns out, like many artists, he had a really interesting one!
One of the books I read was Modigliani by Claude Roy. A bit verbose, the book was a little too heavy on the metaphors and steeped its examination of Modigliani's work in very academic theories. Much of the references that were made as comparison points were things I had to look online to reference in order to understand. Although no reading is ever wasted, I would have like an easier read, more like a 'Modigliani for Beginners' book, lol.
Here's a few facts about Modigliani:
1. July 12, 1884-Jan. 24, 1920: Died at 35 of alcohol and drug abuse and tuberculosis.
2. Was an Italian émigré who, despite his talents, never seemed to completely ‘fit’ into the Parisian art scene, for more than just cultural reasons. They shared (they being Marc Chagall and Chaim Soutine who also emigrated to Paris around the same time) the isolation of being ‘other’ never belonging to any group or adhering to a single manifesto.
3. In 1906, Modigliani settled in Paris, where he encountered the works of Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, Georges Rouault, and Pablo Picasso (in his "blue period") and assimilated their influence, as in The Jewess (1908).
1. The strong influence of Paul Cezanne's paintings is clearly evident, both in Modigliani's deliberate distortion of the figure and the free use of large, flat areas of color.
2. His friendship with Constantin Brancusi kindled Modigliani's interest in sculpture, in which he would continue his very personal idiom, distinguished by strong linear rhythms, simple elongated forms, and verticality. Head (1912; Guggenheim Museum, New York City) and Caryatid (1914; Museum of Modern Art, New York City) exemplify his sculptural work, which consists mainly of heads and, less often, of full figures. (A caryatid is a female statue which holds up columns in Greek sculpture).
1. After 1915, Modigliani devoted himself entirely to painting, producing some of his best work. His interest in African masks and sculpture remains evident, especially in the treatment of the sitters' faces: flat and masklike, with almond eyes, twisted noses, pursed mouths, and elongated necks.
2. Despite their extreme economy of composition and neutral backgrounds, the portraits convey a sharp sense of the sitter's personality, as in Moise Kisling.
1. Characteristics of his style:
- Portrait (usually of a woman) most times facing front
- handled in the decorative portrait tradition of the Italian masters
- Emphasis on line which is clear cut and firm
- Neck and hands are elongated
-torso is usually short
- Tiny head (in relation to the body) which is built up around the long straight line of the nose
- Eyes are usually two almonds tinted light blue, grey, or green, without any definite indication of the pupil
- Model is usually seated on a chair in “a graceful attitude of languid, dreamy melancholy”.
- Warm tones, with the neck, arms, and hands standing out against garments and background.