Paul Guillaume, la signora
Archipenko e Amedeo Modigliani
a Nizza sulla Promenade des
Anglais, fotografia conservata
al Musèe de l’Orangerie, Parigi.
Amedeo Modigliani accompanied
by Paul Guillaume and madame
Archipenko, photo kept in Musee
de l’Orangerie in Paris.
100 YEARS WITHOUT MODÌ
LA BIMBA TRISTE
La bambina in azzurro, dipinto
da Modigliani nel 1918.
Modigliani’s Girl in Blue (1918).
_ ULISSE _ marzo 2020
t applies only to him, even though he is not the only victim. When you look up his
name on Google, at the top of the list it says: “fake Modiglianis”. Thus, thanks to a
series of intrigues, pranks and investigations by magistrates, Modigliani is now mainly
a judicial issue. The painter himself has been forgotten, and the protagonists are legal
experts. The history of Modigliani has been haunted by the spectre of fakes, culminating
in the exploit of three lads from Livorno who used a Black & Decker drill to sculpt
heads that were “rejected” by Modigliani. This hoax was worthy of the avant-garde spirit
of Duchamp who, in 1917, exhibited the famous urinal entitled “Fountaine”, which
changed the course of twentieth century art. Very few people know that the original of
this work no longer exists, as it was thrown away or destroyed, and in various museums
we can see duplicates (basically false compared to the “original”) manufactured by the
artist in 1968. In the twentieth century the concepts of false and true border on the
joke and the paradox. But, in Modigliani’s case, his works, whether genuine or fake,
have become a judicial case. This is probably due to the fact that, unlike Duchamp,
Modigliani is the latest “classic”. His intelligence is less important than his hand.
Modigliani is a painter. And what a painter! But, in contrast to those old grand masters,
I do not recognize any experts who are capable of judging the quality of his creations,
which is sometimes sublime. Marc Restellini has being appointed the curator of the most
recent Modigliani exhibition, in Livorno, on the occasion of the centenary of the artist’s
death. On January 22nd 1920, Modigliani, suffering from tubercular meningitis, was
admitted to the Hôpital de la Charité of Paris, where he died two days later, at the age
of 36. To make sure we are not mistaken, we can see 14 paintings by Modigliani from
the Netter Collection. including the 1918 portrait Fillette en Bleu; the 1916 portrait of
Chaïm Soutine; the portrait Elvire au col blanc (Elvire à la collerette) painted between
1918 and ‘19; and the 1919 portrait Jeune fille rousse (Jeanne Hébuterne), in which the
sitter is depicted in a three quarters view with a detached attitude, looking at us with her
blue eyes. In addition the Paul Alexandre Collection has lent 12 preparatory drawings
for the artist’s sculptures of caryatids. Modigliani was as solitary as the subjects he
painted, but a dialogue has been established between him and the other masters of the
“Ecole de Paris”, active soon after the first avant-gardes, between les Fauves and the
Cubists, when the centrality of man and his spirituality was re-affirmed. Thus we can
admire the tormented creations of Chaïm Soutine: L’Escalier rouge à Cagnes, La Folle,
L’Homme au chapeau and Autoportrait au rideau, painted between 1917 and 1920;
Maurice Utrillo’s views: Place de l’église à Montmagny, Rue Marcadet à Paris, Paysage
de Corse; the inventions of Suzanne Valadon, such as Trois nus à la campagne, and
works by Andrè Derain such as Le Grand Bagneuses, St. Tropez, as well as the Portrait
d’hommeby Moïse Kisling, a Polish artist who left us one of the most intense portraits of
the collector Jonas Netter. A dialogue between souls, before they were lost.
In the fabled locations of Montparnasse and Montmartre Modigliani made friends with
Guillaume Apollinaire, Chaïm Soutine, Paul Guillaume, Blaise Cendrars, Andrè Derain
and Maurice Utrillo, who esteemed him for his charm and his charisma. A passionate
artist, he was a prisoner to alcohol and drugs. In a rather shadowy way, Modì’s great
antagonist was Pablo Picasso, who was fascinated by the young Italian artist and his
paintings, which reflected the entire Renaissance tradition, but expressed by means of an
absolutely modern language.
In his extreme life, with all his lovers, who included the poetesses Anna Akhmatova
and Beatrice Hastings, and with his drug-taking, Modigliani seemed to yearn for death,
which duly overwhelmed him and transformed him into a legend. His young partner,
Jeanne Hébuterne, also a talented artist, decided to accompany him in death, and she
took her own life to escape from her regret and melancholy.
On January 24th 1920, Amedeo Modigliani, one of the
greatest artists of the twentieth century, died in Paris,
but his pure and linear talent is still hotly debated today
UN SOLO DESTINO
Lo studio di Modigliani, in alto.
Jeanne Hébuterne, pittrice francese
e compagna di Modigliani.
Interior of artist Modigliani’s
studio, on top. Jeanne Hébuterne
was a French artist and partner
of Amedeo Modigliani.
ULISSE _ marzo 2020 _