Amedeo Modigliani: an Eye for the World and One for the Soul
Article written by Alessandro Berni on October 23, 2020
“La vita è un dono, dei pochi ai molti, di coloro che sanno e che hanno a coloro che non sanno e che non hanno.”
"Life is a gift, from the few to the many, from those who know and have to those who don't know and don't have."
― Amedeo Modigliani
Amedeo Clemente Modigliani (Italian pronunciation: [ameˈdɛːo modiʎˈʎaːni]; 12 July 1884 – 24 January 1920) was an Italian Jewish painter and sculptor who worked mainly in France. He is known for portraits and nudes in a modern style characterized by a surreal elongation of faces, necks, and figures that were not received well during his lifetime, but later became much sought-after. Amedeo Modigliani's artistic career was short-lived.
Working in Livorno constricted Modigliani’s vision so, in the early 1900s, came the decision to move to Paris, to personally experience the atmosphere and the great events that took place there. His works during this time consisted of canvases, mainly nudes and portraits, although he also worked on drawings and watercolours.
At the beginning of his artistic endeavours his paintings were typically characterized by nervous and sharp brushstrokes probably inspired by Klimt and Toulouse-Lautrec’s works (The Jewess, c.1908).
In 1909 Modigliani moved to Montparnasse. The move signals a turning point in the artist’s life: the friendship with Constantin Brancusi, the contact with ancient and primitive art and the newfound interest in sculpture bring him into a new era of artistry.
Sculpture slowly begins to become Modigliani’s preferred medium thanks to Brancusi’s influence. The subjects usually consist of heads of women and female figures in the pose of caryatids (Testa, 1911-12). These experiments are interspersed with some paintings and drawings on the same subjects (Cariatide, 1911-12).
Forms are elongated, schematic, even harsh in their essentiality. The direct relationship with Cycladic art and African sculpture can be immediately caught. In the same way, the artist's aspiration for a pure form, devoid of ornament and decoration, is clear: stone, simple stone, not marble, plaster or clay.
Modigliani’s interest in sculpture won’t last long. In fact, starting from 1914 he abandoned it completely in favour of painting and drawing.
Modigliani's portraits, characterized by large glassy eyes, are a way to represent the introspection of his characters, the need of "looking inside one's mind, soul" and not just looking at the world that surrounded him. An interesting detail regarding Modigliani's eyes comes from the portrait of the painter Léopold Survage. In fact, he painted it with one eye "alive" and the other "blinded". When asked by his friend why he had depicted him like this, he replied: “I painted you like this so that with one you look at the world, while with the other you look inside yourself.”
Looking at his paintings, his surprising ability to capture the essence of the characters becomes increasingly noticeable. It is no coincidence that many of his models said that being portrayed by Modigliani was like "having your soul stripped".
Today Modigliani's works are easily recognized for their long necks, elongated eyes often dark or completely pupilless.
According to the website Artprice.com, as of October 2020, the turnover of Modigliani’s artwork is worth €70,873,215.
With a steady price evolution of 35.8% in 2019 and various galleries offering drawings and maller works with a starting price in the five figures, investing on a Modigliani piece is almost certainly a good investment.
The oldest auction result ever registered on the website for an artwork by this artist is a drawing-watercolor sold in 1983, at Ader-Picard-Tajan, and the most recent auction result is a print-multiple sold in 2020. Artprice.com's price levels for this artist are based on 1,591 auction results. Especially: painting, print-multiple, sculpture-volume, drawing-watercolor, objects.