As one of his paintings « Nu couché » ("Lying Nude") has just been sold at Sotheby's 157 million dollars, ranking it as the forth most expensive piece of art sold at auction, do you really know Amédéo Modigliani ?
This damned artist was ill, an alcoholic, but also a genius.
1 - Born in 1884, Modigliani first distinguish himself as a sculptor. It is in 1909 that Paul Alexandre, friend and patron of Modigliani, introduces him to the sculptor Constantin Brâncuşi. On the advice of the latter, he sets his studio at la Cité Falguière in Montparnasse and devotes himself to stone sculpture, that comes to the fore in his creation. It is only in 1914 that he exclusively devotes himself to drawing and painting portraits and nudes that will make him famous.
2- Eugénie Garsin, mother of Amedeo Modigliani, keeps a diary. In 1895, as Modigliani is 11, we can read : "His manners are those of a spoiled child, full of intelligence. We will see later what is in this chrysalid. Maybe an artist ?"
3- Often nicknamed as "cursed artist", Modigliani is, since his childhood, very ill. At 14, he suffers a typhoid attack and two years later, a pleurisy. In 1900, a new crisis of pleurisy becomes a tuberculosis.
4- According to the legend of the « Canular de Livourne » ("Livourne's prank"), Modigliani would have come back in 1909 in his home town with the intention of creating some sculptures and to exhibit them at the caffè Bardi to artist friends who made fun of him and told him to throw his artworks into the ditch.
By dredging the canal near the area of the caffè Bardi, three sculptures representing three heads were found, that many critics assigned to Modigliani. A few days later, a group of three Livourne's students revealed one of the sculptures was their artwork.
5 – It is his bad health that forced him to give up on sculpture ; dust and exhaustion oblige him to devote himself only to painting.
Back in Paris in 1914, he moves in La Ruche and makes the portrait of Montparnasse's regulars : Soutine, Diego Rivera, Juan Gris, Léopold Survage, Max Jacob, Foujita, Jean Cocteau ...
Amédéo Modigliani, « Jeanne Hébuterne » 1918, The Norton Simon Museum
6 – Modigliani never alters his paintings but those who posed for him said it was like "laying their soul bare".
7- As WWI was starting, he wishes to enrol in the French Army, but he can't because of his precarious health.
8 - Modigliani is charismatic and considerate. Then, he seduces a lot of women. But when drunk, he turns out to be very violent, displaying fits of anger.
9 - Léopold Zborowski, in charge of the painter's matters, asks the avant-garde paintings merchant, Berthe Weill, to organise an exhibition in her parisian gallery. The preview is brutally stopped by the police. Among the 32 artworks exhibited, some of the paintings must be taken down for "public indecency". The superintendent explains to the gallery owner "These nudes, they have hairs !". The exhibition goes on until the end even if, in spite of her opposition, the gallery owner must decide to never exhibit nudes with pubic hair again. Because of this scandal, none of the paintings is sold.
10 - Modigliani dies of a tuberculous meningitis in 1920.
Jeanne Hébuterne, his partner, 9 month-pregnant of their second child, commits suicide by throwing herself out of a fifth floor window two days after Modigliani's death.