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Modigliani’s mannered art

Dec - 19 - 2012
admin third great outsider among the émigrés in Paris died all too soon. The Italian Amedeo Modigliani destroyed himself through drink and drugs, driven desperate by his poverty and bitterly ashamed of it. Modigliani was a young man of fey beauty, and his work has a wonderful slow elegance that is unusual, but compelling. Through the influence of the Rumanian sculptor Constantin Brancusi, he fell under the spell of primitive sculpture, especially from Africa. He went on to develop a sophisticated, mannered style built upon graceful, decorative arabesques and simplified forms. It is hard for us to imagine why it did not attract patrons. He is famous now for his elegant, elongated nudes, but it is portraits that are the most extraordinary.

Chaim Soutine (1917; 91 x 60 cm (36 x 23 1/2 in)) whose own art was so off-beat, appeals to Modigliani for what he is bodily and for what he could become spiritually. Soutine rears up out of the frame like a gawky pillar. His nose is brutish in its spread, his eyes asymmetrical, his hair a shaggy mess. All this uncouthness is contrasted by his slender wrists and hands, by an impression we have of a man yearning for a homeland, set upon forming one out of his own substance if no place is provided. There is sadness here, but also determination: the thick red mouth is resolutely closed.

2 Responses so far.

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