Isn’t it tragic when an artist becomes well known after his or her death, despite possessing enormous talent? This has been the case for many of the most famous artists who have ever lived. A few examples of individuals who rose to fame after their death include Vincent Van Gogh, Paul Gauguin, Georges-Pierre Seurat, Claude Monet, and Joannes Vermeer. Another person is painter and sculptor Amedeo Modigliani.
The Early Life of Painter Amedeo Modigliani
Amedeo Modigliani was born on July 12th, 1884 in Livorno, Italy to a Sephardic Jewish family. Amedeo’s family was part of a large community of individuals persecuted for their religious beliefs. Modigliani’s family got to Italy by way of Amedeo’s great-great-grandfather, Solomon Garsin, who was a refugee when he arrived in Livorno in the 18th Century.
Flaminio Modigliani, Amedeo’s father, was an accomplished entrepreneur and businessman. In fact, by the time his engagement to Amedeo’s mother was announced, he was a wealthy mining engineer. He had the huge responsibility of managing the mine in Sardinia, along with about 30,000 acres of family property. While he was highly respected, he was not as cultured as his wife.
Amedeo’s mother, Eugénie Garsin, was born and raised in Marseille. She “was descended from an intellectual, scholarly family of Sephardic ancestry that for generations had lived along the Mediterranean coastline. Fluent in many languages, her ancestors were authorities on sacred Jewish texts and had founded a school of Talmudic studies. Family legend traced the family lineage to the 17th-century Dutch philosopher Baruch Spinoza. The family business was a credit agency with branches in Livorno, Marseille, Tunis, and London, though their fortunes ebbed and flowed,” (Wikipedia). Although Amedeo’s mother and father came from different backgrounds, they managed to get their family through an economic crisis that occurred in 1883, just a year before Amedeo was born.
The fourth child in the Modigliani family, Amedeo was a lifesaver for his family. Interestingly, Amedeo’s birth literally saved his family from financial collapse. When Amedeo was born, his father’s business interests severely dwindled. “Amedeo’s birth saved the family from ruin; according to an ancient law, creditors could not seize the bed of a pregnant woman or a mother with a newborn child. The bailiffs entered the family’s home just as Eugenia went into labour; the family protected their most valuable assets by piling them on top of her,” stated the Wikipedia article Amedeo Modigliani.
Throughout Amedeo’s childhood, he struggled with illnesses such as pleurisy, typhoid fever, and tuberculosis. During these difficult years, he developed a close relationship with his mother, who was instrumental in his becoming an artist. Despite his bouts with illness, his mother took him on a tour of southern Italy and made a specific note about his artistic talent in her journal. The article mentioned above quoted her diary: “The child’s character is still so unformed that I cannot say what I think of it. He behaves like a spoiled child, but he does not lack intelligence. We shall have to wait and see what is inside this chrysalis. Perhaps an artist?”
Amedeo Modigliani’s Artistic Training
Amedeo Modigliani’s artistic training began when he was just 14 years old, at which time his mother enrolled him to study with the finest painter in Livorno — Guglielmo Micheli. The young artist worked at Micheli’s art school from 1898 to 1900. Others in Micheli’s studio were Llewelyn Lloyd, Oscar Ghiglia, and Renato Natali. This was a terrific opportunity for Modigliani. The Modigliani Foundation wrote,
“While with Micheli, Modigliani not only studied landscape, but also portraiture, still-life, and the nude. His fellow students recall that the latter was where he displayed his greatest talent. In 1902, Modigliani continued what was to be a life-long infatuation with life drawing, enrolling in the Accademia di Belle Arti (Scuola Libera di Nudo, or ‘Free School of Nude Studies’) in Florence. A year later while still suffering from tuberculosis, he moved to Venice, where he registered to study at the Istituto di Belle Arti.”
The Artistic Career and Style of Amedeo Modigliani
The artistic career of Amedeo Modigliani began when he moved to Paris in 1906 at age 22. In Paris, he found a home in Le Bateau-Lavoir, “a commune for penniless artists in Montmartre,” and rented a studio in Rue Caulaincourt. When he first got to Paris, he spent his time sketching nudes at the Colarossi school and doing his best to play the part of a bohemian artist. About a year after he’d arrived, he no longer had to play a part; “He transformed himself from a dapper academician artist into a sort of prince of vagabonds,” stated the Modigliani Foundation.
As unhealthy as his lifestyle was, Modigliani still managed to create some incredible works of art, The Jewess being one, although there was no serious interest in it shown by galleries. In later years, he painted a number of portraits that today are very famous. Biography mentioned,
“(Modigliani) produced much of his finest work during this time (after WWI in 1914). Bringing with him the bold lines and geometric abstraction that he had mastered in his sculptures, Modigliani returned to painting portraits, rendering his subjects—which featured the people from his neighborhood, the women who passed through his life and his many friends among the Parisian artistic community—with lines that were bold but simple and masklike faces that were simultaneously flat and evocative. During the war, Modigliani also drew on his earlier training to create more than 30 female nudes in his new and distinctive style.”
It was this iconic style that made Modigliani famous after his death of tuberculosis in January of 1920.
If Modigliani was anything, he was self-destructive. This could be one reason why his art was overlooked during his lifetime. Thankfully, Modigliani’s art received the attention it deserved years after his death. He is now known as one of the most influential artists of his time.
Re-create Amedeo Modigliani’s Works of Art
Are you a fan of Modigliani’s unmistakable style? If so, did you know you can recreate his works of art? It’s true. All you need is a Windows PC, SegPlay PC (a paint-by-numbers computer program), and our Amedeo Modigliani digital paint-by-numbers pattern set. Patterns included in this set are Portrait of Pablo Picasso, Portrait of Chaim Soutine, Portrait of Juan Gris, Bride and Groom, Nude Sitting on a Divan, Self Portrait, Gypsy Woman with Baby, and many more. Which of these patterns is your personal favorite?
It would have been wonderful if Amedeo Modigliani could have experienced the notoriety he rose to after his death in his lifetime. Perhaps he is still with us in spirit, enjoying the success he was destined to have as an artist. What a beautiful thought.
Read more Segmation blog posts about historical artists:
Be an Artist in 2 minutes with Segmation SegPlay® PC (see more details here)