One day at the tender age of 14, with paint in my hair and ink on my shirt, my high school art teacher introduced me to something that would irrevocably change my life in art: Amedeo Modigliani.
“We’re studying a new artist model today,” she said as she opened the textbook like a treasure box. My eyes met with Jeanne Hébuterne, a portrait on the page; and I was instantly drawn into Modigliani’s painting and world. Ten years on, I am still under the tutelage of Modigliani, continuing to learn from and be influenced by his art.
Modigliani was born into a Jewish family; his mother descended from an intellectual, scholarly family; his father, while less culturally accomplished, from a family of successful entrepreneurs. Having read the philosophical writings of Nietzsche and Baudelaire at a young age, Modigliani soon grew to hate his bourgeois roots. He instead developed the belief that the only route to true creativity was through defiance and disorder. Turning to alcohol and drugs to create a dishevelled facade, as well as to hide his tuberculosis symptoms, Modigliani went from a well-dressed and educated artist to one of bohemian excess. Cruelly, he died from tuberculosis at the age of thirty-five.
Modigliani discarded and destroyed many of his earlier paintings that exhibited his bourgeois background, but thanks to the furious pace at which he worked, many remain from his later years –
To the untrained eye, it is difficult to articulate just what it is that makes Modigliani’s paintings so alluring. Upon studying them however, it becomes evident that the rich layering of texture and colour – hues of green, pink, yellow and blue – that lie behind his seemingly skin-coloured and earthy palette, are what imbue his paintings with so much significance and effect.