Modi, Mon Amour!


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Part of being in Paris is rediscovering the artist who has always whispered to you. In my case, that would be Modigliani. Our paths continue to cross -even though he died in Montparnasse in 1920. For a while, he lived on Blvd. Raspail, a stone’s throw from La Maison des Etudiantes where I lived for one year.

Amedeo Modigliani came to Paris from Livorno and was greatly influenced by the work of Toulouse Lautrec and Cezanne yet most agree that his style can’t be pigeonholed in any category.

What you’ll notice about most of Modi’s portraits of women are the elongated necks and vacant eyes (often completely black) as if he were painting masks instead of actual faces. Like Picasso, he was fascinated with African, but also Cambodian sculpture.

One of his exhibitions was quickly shut down because of his ‘shocking’ nudes. Not that he was doing anything different than Courbet had already done – Origin of the World – but these were paintings that remained more often for ‘private viewing’.

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If you’d like to know more about the life of Modigliani, be sure to take a look at the 1958, Les Amants de Montparnasse, also known as Montparnasse 19 with Gerard Philipe.

Gerard Philipe, like Modigliani, also died at a young age.

Some say that Modi’s use of drugs – hashish and absinthe – brought about his extraordinary vision – and others seem to think he may have achieved more had he curbed his self destructiveness. We will never know.

Never was the expression more true than in the days of Bohemian Paris “Live fast, die young, leave a beautiful corpse.” Modi died of tubercular meningitis in his thirties. I doubt his corpse was beautiful, but his unique vision remains intact and forever haunting.

Although you can view some of Modigliani’s work at the Musee de L’Orangerie in the Tuileries Gardens, his paintings have been dispersed throughout the world.