New York City, NY
Modigliani Unmasked considers the celebrated artist Amedeo Modigliani (Italian, 1884-1920) shortly after he arrived in Paris in 1906, when the city was still roiling with anti-Semitism after the long-running tumult of the Dreyfus Affair and the influx of foreign emigres. Modigliani’s Italian-Sephardic background helped forge a complex cultural identity that rested in part on the ability of Italian Jews historically to assimilate and embrace diversity.
The exhibition shows that Modigliani’s art cannot be fully understood without acknowledging the ways the artist responded to the social realities that he confronted in the unprecedented artistic melting pot of Paris. The drawings from the Alexandre collection reveal the emerging artist himself, enmeshed in his own particular identity quandary, struggling to discover what portraiture might mean in a modern world of racial complexity.
The exhibition includes approximately 150 works, those from the Alexandre collection as well as a selection of Modigliani’s paintings, sculptures, and other drawings from collections around the world. Modigliani’s art will be complemented by work representative of the various multicultural influences—African, Greek, Egyptian, and Khmer—that inspired the young artist during this lesser-known early period.
Credit: Exhibition overview from museum website.
Whether or not you go Modigliani Unmasked places Modigliani's drawings within the context of his larger oeuvre. An Italian Sephardic Jew working in turn-of-the-century Paris, Modigliani embraced his status as an outsider, and his early drawings show a marked awareness of the role of ethnicity and race within society. Revealing how Modigliani’s preoccupation with identity spurred him to reconceive the modern portrait, the author argues that Modigliani ultimately came to think of identity as beyond national or cultural boundaries.
One of the great artists of the 20th century, Amedeo Modigliani (1884–1920) is celebrated for revolutionizing modern portraiture, particularly in his later paintings and sculpture. Modigliani Unmasked examines the artist’s rarely seen early works on paper, offering revelatory insights into his artistic sensibilities and concerns as he developed his signature style of graceful, elongated figures. Lavishly illustrated with the artist’s paintings and over one hundred drawings collected by Dr. Paul Alexandre, Modigliani’s close friend and first patron, this book provides an engaging and long overdue analysis of Modigliani’s early body of work on paper.
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Another book that may be of interest is Modigliani, which introduces his brief but revered career at the heart of Paris' early modernist hotbed with key works from his highly individualistic repertoire. In endless odes to the female form, Amedeo Modigliani (1884–1920) traced elongated bodies, almond eyes, and his own name into art history. His languid female subjects are as instantly recognizable as they are startling, sensual, and swan-necked.
Modigliani's unique figuration corresponded to his own personal idea of beauty, but drew upon a rich variety of visual influences, including contemporary Cubism, African carvings, Cambodian sculptures, and 13th century painting from his native Italy. Although most renowned for his nude females, he applied similar stylistic techniques to portraits of male artistic contemporaries such as Pablo Picasso, Jean Cocteau, and Chaim Soutine.
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