12.06.1884, Livorno (Italy) – 22.01.1920, Paris
Painter, graphic artist, sculptor

Modigliani was the son of Sephardic Jews in Livorno, Flaminio Modigliani, a mining engineer, and Eugénie Garsin. While ill with typhus in 1898, according to his mother the boy saw pictures by great Renaissance masters while in a delirium and this revealed his calling to be an artist. His parents allowed him to leave school and he began studying under Guglielmo Micheli in Livorno. He was forced to interrupt his studies in 1900 because of a serious attack of tuberculosis and he travelled to Naples and Capri with his mother for treatment in 1900–01. He joined the Free Art School in Florence in May 1902 and took lessons from Giovanni Fattori. In 1903, he moved to Venice and entered the Academy of Fine Arts, studying the works of old masters in museums and churches and those of new artists at the 1903 and 1905 Biennales. He took part in spiritualist séances and acquired a liking for hashish. When he settled in Paris in 1906, he attended the Académie Colarossi for a short time and got to know Utrillo, Max Jacob, Picasso and Chaïm Soutine. In 1907 he met Dr Paul Alexandre, who began buying the artist’s works and provided him with a studio in his own home.

Modigliani exhibited his works successfully at the Salon des Indépendants in 1908. In 1909, he became keen on African plastic art and – after getting to know Brancusi – he temporarily abandoned painting in order to concentrate on studying sculpture. In 1910 the works exhibited at the Salon des Indépendants were commented on in reviews by Paul Guillaume and Andrew Solomon. His friendship with Anna Akhmatova belongs to this period, and it continued into 1911 when he made several drawings of her. He showed his ‘stone heads’ in a group exhibition in 1912 in the Cubist Room at the Salon d’Automne. Returning to painting, in 1913 he produced portraits of his friends. In 1914 he began cooperating with the dealer Paul Guillaume, who included the artist’s works in group exhibitions at his gallery. He took part in the exhibition ‘Twentieth Century Art: A Review of Modern Movements’ at the Whitechapel Gallery in London in May–June 1914. The first and only solo exhibition during the artist’s life opened at the gallery of Berthe Weill in Paris on 3 December 1917; it was banned and closed on the opening day because of the images of nudes. While maintaining his links with Guillaume, Modigliani began collaborating with the Polish dealer Léopold Zborowski and was commissioned by him to paint a series of female academy figures. In April 1918 he left Paris, together with the family of Zborowski and Chaïm Soutine, and travelled to the south coast of France because of the threat of attack by German troops. He returned to Paris in May where he died of tubercular meningitis. The first retrospective exhibition of his work took place in 1921 at the Levesque gallery in Paris. The first exhibition in his native country, Italy, took place in 1922 as part of the 13th Venice Biennale. F.B.

Modigliani