In the eyes of succeeding generations, Amadeo Modigliani became a briefly active (he died in his mid-30s) albeit wonderful talent whose relationship to art history was more or less the same as a firework’s relationship to the night sky. His early death from tuberculosis in 1920, and his relative immunity from the aesthetics of Futurism and Cubism, the dominant avant-garde movements of his Italian and French milieux, left him looking like an artistic loner. In fact Modigliani was a hard-working artist whose archaising modernity owed a great deal to distant predecessors, such as Botticelli, as well as to avant-garde contemporaries like Brancusi. The curator of this show (22 October-12 January 2003), Kenneth Wayne, has spent more than 15 years researching Modigliani and his milieu, even managing to interview one of the artist’s last models, Paulette Jourdain. The accompanying catalogue, published by Harry N. Abrams, will do a great deal to flesh out the truth-diminishing tendencies of the “solitary genius” myth befogging Modigliani’s name by presenting him in the full context of his time. This is the first large-scale show devoted to Modigliani in the US in 40 years. It includes 22 works by his contemporaries, including Matisse, Picasso, Soutine and Brancusi. The 60 works by Modigliani (right, his Portrait of Leopold Zborowski, 1916), including sculptures and works on paper, have been lent by museums around the world, but many of the others’ works, including Chagall’s “Peasant Life” and Delauney’s “Sun, Tower, Aeroplane”, have come from the host institution’s own collection. The show travels to the Kimbell Art Museum and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.
Originally appeared in The Art Newspaper as 'Modigliani and the artists of Montparnasse'