Amadeo Clemente Modigliani, more commonly known as just Modigliani, was one of the unique artists of the Expressionism. The painter was born into a Jewish family in the port city of Livorno, on the Western coast of Tuscany, Italy. As a child, Modigliani was often ill, with various lung conditions, as well as contracting typhoid fever in his teens. It was during a health crisis, bedridden that he expressed his biggest wish to his mother; to visit the Palazzo Pitti in Uffizi and see the artwork. At fourteen years old and in good health, Modigliani’s mother encouraged his artistic career and not only granted his wish of visiting the Palazzo Pitti but also put him to work and study at Micheli’s Studio where he stayed until 1900. In the studio, the young artist studied painting along with Giulio Cesare Vinzio, Manilo Martinelli, Gino Romiti, Renato Natali, among others.
The first period of Modigliani’s studies was essential for the development of his style, mostly influenced by Italian art of the XIX century and Renaissance art. On the other hand, he was also deeply inspired by Modern masters of painting like Toulouse-Lautrec and Giovanni Boldini. Modigliani’s work stands out among his peers of the avant-garde because he was able to incorporate all of these distinct influences and create a style that is uniquely his. Although he didn’t produce many paintings in his short lifetime, his paintings are expressive and unmistakable as a Modigliani piece. The artist worked in Paris for most of his life, becoming acquainted with other contemporaries like Andre Salmon, Constantin Brancusi, and Pablo Picasso - who became very close to Modigliani.
Modigliani, along with other painters of the time, was deeply inspired by the exotic aesthetics of the African masks. These artifacts were brought to Europe by the turn of the century, after exploratory expeditions and sold in flea markets. Picasso also used this inspiration in many Cubist paintings, while Modigliani adapted the characteristics to his style. The artist would mostly paint portraits as well as nudes, and elongated his figures similar to the African masks. Unlike Picasso who found great success as an artist during his lifetime, Modigliani would never achieve this. He was never accepted into the Paris Salon, much less had financial success, and his only solo exhibit was censored because of his depiction of nudes, scaring his reputation. The Expressionist was indeed a visionary with his artwork but sadly struggled with drug and alcohol abuse. He passed away in January 1920, in Paris, after becoming ill. His lover Jeanne Hebuterne, who had a daughter with him and was pregnant with their second child was unable to handle his loss and tragically committed suicide by jumping from a five-story window.