Painter and sculptor Amedeo Modigliani was born in Livorno, Italy, in 1884. He is best known for his distinctive style of painting elongated faces, almond-shaped eyes, and sloping shoulders, giving many of his works a delicate, dreamy quality.
Amedeo Modigliani was the fourth child of Flaminio and Eugenia Modigliani. His father died while Modigliani was still a child, leaving his mother to encourage the boy in his artistic pursuits. Although she recognized his talent early on, Modigliani’s health problems made his life difficult.Modigliani developed quite a reputation for drinking to excess, and he was even arrested for drunkenness at one point. While living in Paris, he developed relationships with several Jewish artists, giving him a stronger sense of his identity as a Sephardic Jew. Modigliani was constantly struggling with poverty as he worked on developing his artistic talents. His life was cut short when he died of tubercular meningitis in 1920. His wife was pregnant with their second child at the time of his death.
Modigliani’s formal training began in 1898 when he studied with Guglielmo Micheli. He also studied at the Libera du Nudo in Florence and an academy in Venice. During his training, he had the opportunity to share ideas with Ardengo Soffici and Umberto Boccioni, who went on to be two of the leaders of the Futurism movement. As a sculptor, Modigliani was inspired by Constantin Brancusi. He was also heavily influenced by the art of Oceania and Africa, but he struggled to find direction as an artist. Head, a sculpture, showcases his trademark style of imitating the look of African masks. Modigliani eventually became a portrait specialist, creating delicate works that were in direct contrast to his difficult life. Modigliani’s strong interest in African masks is also apparent in his portrait work. His paintings feature flat faces with twisted noses and elongated necks. He also used a lot of neutral backgrounds, making it easier to see the portrait sitter’s true personality. His Moise Kisling painting of 1915 is a good example of this style. Nu Couche de Dos idealizes the feminine form with an elegant figure and curved lines. In Portrait of Pablo Picasso, Modigliani communicated his respect for Picasso by painting facial features similar to those of Buddha as depicted in Southeast Asian art. Although Modigliani’s paintings now sell for millions of dollars, he had only one solo show during his lifetime. As his health declined, he started painting portraits of sick children because he felt a sort of kinship with them. Modigliani’s career ended with him painting portraits on terraces in the hopes of receiving just a drink in return.
- When he was alive, many of Modigliani’s paintings sold for less than $10 each.
- One of Modigliani’s landlords used his paintings to patch mattresses.
- In 2004, someone paid $31.3 million for a portrait Modigliani painted of his lover.
Some Examples of Amedeo Modigliani’s Artwork