Tate Modern presents one of the most comprehensive Modigliani exhibitions ever held in the UK. Amedeo Modigliani (1884–1920) was considered a ground-breaking artist and the exhibition includes 100 works, many of them rarely exhibited and nearly 40 of which have never before been shown in the UK.
Modigliani was born in Livorno, Italy and began working as an artist in Paris from 1906. The exhibition begins with the artist’s arrival in Paris and explores how he began to create his own particular style. Although influenced by the art of Paul Cézanne, Henri Toulouse-Lautrec and Pablo Picasso, Modigliani began to experiment initially with a number of styles. He began to be part of a wide network of poets, dealers, writers and musicians who had been drawn to the artistic enclaves of Montmartre and Montparnasse in Paris. Many of this network would pose for portraits including Diego Rivera 1914, Juan Gris 1915 and Jean Cocteau 1916.
The exhibition illustrates through a film how Paris at the start of the twentieth century was one of the cultural centres of Europe with exciting developments in art, dance, theatres and cinema.
The famous sculptor Constantin Brancusi found the young artist a studio near his own in Montparnasse, his friendship with Brâncuși and Jacob Epstein may have inspired Modigliani to try his hand at sculpture, the exhibition features examples of the artist’s work made before the First World War. The sculptures also show the influence of sculptures from other cultures that were popular in Paris at the time including Egyptian, Asian and African.
In 1918, Modigliani was suffering from ill-health and decided to move to the South of France where he began to paint local people with more muted colours. He lived in Nice with his new partner, Jeanne Hébuterne who was pregnant with the couple’s first child.
One of the highlights of the exhibition is the section devoted to Modigliani’s nudes, which are perhaps his best-known works. Modigliani transformed the way nudes were displayed by using some familiar poses but offered more realistic and explicit depictions. Even in liberal Paris, the nudes were considered controversial and led to the police censoring his only solo exhibition in his lifetime, at Berthe Weill’s gallery in 1917, on grounds of indecency.
In the final section of the exhibition, a self-portrait from 1919 shows the artist in a confident pose and a number of portraits of his friends and lovers. However, his health began to decline and in 1920 Modigliani died from tubercular meningitis, unfortunately the tragedy did not stop there when his partner Jeanne Hébuterne committed suicide a few days later.
This fascinating exhibition explores the short artistic career of Amedeo Modigliani and provides plenty of evidence that even in the artistic hotbed of Paris at the start of the 20th century, he was considered someone with a great deal of talent. His particular style shows the influence of his Italian painting background, African art and the artists that inspired him in Paris. His tragic early death has often led to his work being overlooked in comparison with his more illustrious companions, however this exhibition provides a more rounded perspective of his life and times.
Visitors to the exhibition can enjoy a new integrated virtual reality experience, The Ochre Atelier: Modigliani VR Experience invites visitors to step into the studio where the artist lived and worked in the final months of his life.
Video Review here
Visiting London Guide Rating – Highly Recommended
For more information or book tickets , visit the Tate Modern website here
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