Modigliani: Unfortunate Genius

By Liza G.

Modigliani: Unfortunate Genius

Amedeo Modigliani is one of the greatest artists of the 20th century, with his distinguished style and signature portraits. He could probably become even greater, if only he had more time. His life marked with a lot of passion and a lot of suffering, his works are full of empathy and soul. Modigliani’s image was wrapped in a mystery, so in this article we will try to come closer to his philosophy, life and oeuvre.

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Young Modigliani always wanted to become a sculptor. He moved from his hometown in Italy to Paris in order to become one. His family was very poor and suffered from the financial difficulties, as well as the artist himself. He was not praised during his life, but later become much more popular and now is considered as a modernist master. Who knows what else he could have achieved, if not for his illness and death in 1920 at the age of 35.

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He created quite a reputation, even for the artistic circles of avant-garde Paris. There were rumors of him being a hopeless alcoholic and heavy drug user. But at the same time, he was the one to spread the rumors, thus wrapping his persona in a scandalous veil of mystery and vagabond-like lifestyle; Modigliani was fond of practical jokes and often made up stories about his life. Some said he was only creating an alluring legend to cover up his struggle with tuberculosis (people with this illness were ostracized in a society because it was quite contagious and incurable). Many art historians draw a line between Amedeo Modigliani and Vincent van Gogh for the tragic life and for the rejection of their oeuvre among the contemporaries.

But let’s talk about his art. Modigliani, as many of his modernist colleagues, was fond of the tribal art and prehistoric cultures. He took great interest in the Egyptian art, and we can see in his portraits the resemblance with the Egyptian style. It is seen even more in his sculpture works.

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We can easily notice the depiction of eyes, they seem empty or fogged. “When I know your soul, I will paint your eyes.” that is a quote by author himself. He painted his beloved friends, strangers, Parisian bohemian artists and poets. 

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 “What I look for is neither reality nor unreality but the subconscious, the instinctive mystery of the human race.”

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Since 1917 Jeanne Hébuterne, 19-year-old art student, became his primary model. 

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Modigliani fell crazy in love, and it was a mutual feeling. But their love story is a sad one. After he died, Hébuterne committed suicide while being pregnant with their second child.

During his lifetime, Modigliani sold many of his works, but for the ridiculous amount of money. He used to pay the bills in the restaurants with the paintings. Now he is worth millions and millions of dollars and could be easily put among the most praised artists of the 20th century. He had a tragic story, a wild reputation and incredibly significant art manner, different from everything known to the public. If only the world hadn’t been so harsh on him; if only he hadn’t been so harsh on himself. But as he said, “It is your duty in life to save your dream.”. And Modigliani followed this principle, and was trying hard to save his dream – to create, to paint, to work, to be inspired by the world.



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