Amedeo Modigliani

1884 1920
(Italie) 1884 /   (France) 1920

Amadeo Modigliani, fourth and last child of sepharati jewish family, was born on July 12, 1884 in Livorno, in Italy. On that very year, the Modigliani’s family business (they were exploiting a timber and coal business as well as some mines in Sardegna) went bankrupt. Thus, in 1886, the mother, Eugénie Garsin, of French origin, became a personal tutor and her sister, Laura, turned the house into a real school. Emmanuele, the eldest would become a lawyer and a socialist member of parliament (“MP”). Marguerita, the only girl among the four children of Eugénie and Flaminio, would remain single and would become the adoptive mother of Jeanne, the daughter of Amadeo and Jean Hébuterne. As for Umberto, he would become an engineer trained at Ecole des Mines de Paris, the second most prestigious French engineering school. 

In 1898, Modigliani started studying at Ecole des Beaux-Arts of Livorno. There, he took the classes of Guglielmo Micheli. In September 1900, he falls ill of a pleurisy which turns into tuberculosis. He spends the winter of 1902 in Rome, where he paints replicas in Museums. In Florence, he enrols in the free school of nude, takes the classes of Giovanni Fattori and meets Manuel Ortiz de Zarate, a Chilean artist who keeps talking about Paris. From 1903 to 1906, he continued his training at the free school of nude of the Beaux-Arts Institute of Venice. 

At the end of the year, his mother provides him with the necessary money and he arrives in Paris in January1906. After a few days spent in a hotel, he settles down in Montmartre, on rue Caulaincourt, close to the Bateau-Lavoir where he meets Picasso, Derain, Appolinaire, Diego Rivera, Max Jacob and Jacques Lipchitz. He enrols in the Colarossi Academy. On this very year, he shows three of his painting in Laura Wylda’s gallery, on rue des Saint-Pères.

In 1907, his place of residence changes constantly, he meets Maurice Utrillo, André Utter, he spends time in the cabarets of Montmartre and starts drinking and smoking hashish. In November he meets Doctor Paul Alexandre who will support him until 1914 by regularly buying some of his works.

In 1908, Modigliani shows six paintings at the Salon des Indépendants (“the Independent’s Show”), among which “The Jewish Girl” (bought buy Paul Alexandre). In Montmartre, he sculpts heads in subway sleepers stolen at the Barbès-Rochechouart station. 

Following the general trend, in September 1909, he leaves Montmartre for Montparnasse and settles down at the number 14 of the Cité Falguière. His interest for sculpture increases and works on stone with Constantin Brancusi. It is during this period that he meets Zadkine, Kisling, Foujita and Soutine. Between 1913 and 1914, he comes back to painting.

In 1914, Modigliani and Ortiz de Zarate want to enrol in the army but are denied entry for health-related reasons. Modigliani meets Béatrice Hastings, a British journalist and poet.

In 1915, Max Jacob introduces him to the art dealer and collector Paul Guillaume. Modigliani produces on average, one painting every 6 days and draws numerous portraits. He is seen at La Rotonde, at Marie Vassilieff’s canteen in company of Béatrice Hastings. 

During the summer 1916, Léopold Zborowski becomes his at dealer.

In 1917, Modigliani works at Zborowski’s at the 3, rue Joseph-Bara et gives him all of his production for 15 to 20 francs a day. On that winter, he paints his first series of nudes. In March 1917, he meets Jeanne Hébuterne, étudiante at the Colarossi Academy, she is 19 years old. She becomes his partner and settles down with him in a small studio found by Zborowski at the 8 rue de la Grande-Chaumière. On December 3, 1917, Zborowski organises his first personal show at Berthe Weil Gallery. For the preface of the catalogue, Cendrars writes a poem. His sate of health deteriorates and the couples moves to settle in Cagnes-sur-Mer along with Soutine, Foujita, Léopold Survage, Anders Osterlind, Blaise Cendrars and Paul Guillaume. Jeanne will give birth to the little Jeanne on November 29, 1918.

In December 1918, Paul Guillaume organises a show which gathers paintings of Modigliani, Picasso and Matisse. He paints a lot and finally experiences his first successes.

In 1919, his state of health worsens but he refuses to use medications. Desperately drinking, he wanders from Café to Café. On the night of January 24, 1920, he dies of meningitis-tuberculosis.

His is 35 years old. Jeanne, then at the ninth month of her pregnancy, shelters at her parents’. At the dawn of January 24, 1920, desperate, she throws herself from the fifth floor. She is 21 years old.