Archive for January 25th, 2011

You wouldn’t know it to look at the work of Amedeo Modigliani, but it was quite an influence on my painting.  Modigliani’s work through his short, self-destructive life consisted primarily of stylized portraits and  nudes.  The heads of his subjects were long and oval, often set at an angle aperch an overly long neck.  The eyes are almond shaped and the nose pinched.   Hardly words to describe great beauty yet they maintain a graceful allure that is immediately recognizable as the work of Modigliani.

  His instant recognizability of his style and subjects from across large galleries was striking and was the great message I took from seeing Modigliani in museums over the years.  You couldn’t mistake it for the work of anyone else and as a painter early in my career, still seeking the direction of my work, this was an invaluable observation.  With each Modigliani I came across, the idea that my work should be somehow unique and have a quality of instant recognition was reinforced in my mind. 

Also, his limited subject matter made an imprint.  The idiosyncratic nature of his portraits and nudes made the repetition of his forms seem like a moot point, making the viewer easily enter the picture plane and focus on the unique qualities of the piece in the colors and forms.  It wasn’t the subject that mattered but the way in which it was painted.  Another valuable lesson.

Fortunately, I didn’t learn the lessons of the other parts of Modigliani’s life.  His drug and alcohol addictions, combined with tuberculosis, led to an early death at the age of 35.  Even more tragic is the story of Jeanne Hebuterne, the model for the paintings shown here and the common-law wife of the artist.  She was the subject of at least 25 of Modigliani paintings.  The day after the artist succumbed to death in Paris in January of 1920, a distraught and pregnant  Jeanne threw herself out the window, killing herself and her unborn child.  She was 21 years old. 

 Coincidentally, her death came on this date, January 25.  I didn’t realize that until I just looked it up.  Hmmm…

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