Modigliani at the Tate Modern, London
“You look out at the world with one eye, and into yourself with another.”
During his brief and turbulent life Modigliani developed a unique and instantly recognisable pictorial style. Though meeting little success during their time, his emotionally intense portraits and seductive nudes are now among the best-loved paintings of the 20th century.
Modigliani’s nudes are a highlight of the exhibition which we managed to get to at the Tate Modern before it closed earlier this month (April 2018) with 12 nudes on display, this was the largest group ever reunited in the UK. These sensuous works proved controversial when they were first shown in 1917, leading police to censor his only ever solo exhibition on the grounds of indecency.
As a visitor to the exhibition, we were also able to view his lesser-known but radical and thought-provoking sculptures, as well as his portraits of his friends, lovers and supporters, including Pablo Picasso, Constantin Brancusi and his partner Jeanne Hébuterne.
Another very insightful angle to this exhibition was the augmented reality film ‘The Ochre Atelier’ that had been created by the virtual reality app Vive in collaboration with the Tate. The story goes that in 1919 Amedeo Modigliani had returned to Paris from the south of France. The war was over and his health had improved.
His art dealer, Léopold Zborowski found a studio and living space for Modigliani and his partner, Jeanne Hébuterne, on the rue de la Grande Chaumière, near the cafés and meeting places of Montparnasse.
The film allowed you to virtually tour the place where one of the greatest artists of the twentieth century lived and worked in the final months of his life. Can you believe he died at just 35 years old.
The legend of his troubled life and early demise, and the subsequent suicide of his young fiancée they say overshadowed his significant artistic achievement.
Modigliani’s fiancée was often his muse.
For his first and only solo exhibition, Modigliani painted a series of nudes, which are now among his most famous paintings. Legend has it that the nudes drew such a crowd around the gallery that it eventually caught the attention of a police officer. The officer was offended, not so much by their nudity as by the fact they displayed pubic hair, and promptly ordered them to be taken down. Whether or not this actually happened, the exhibition caught the imagination of the public, and contributed to Modigliani’s reputation as a scandalous playboy.
Modigliani’s ‘modern women’ are a symbol of sexuality and defiance. Their unapologetic stares and poses convey women in control of their bodies and their livelihoods (models at the time earned relatively good money). This, in itself, made a real statement.
“To do any work, I must have a living person … I must be able to see him opposite me.”
The Modigliani Exhibition at Tate Modern has now closed.
Nicky’s World May 2018