Haifa University discovers three drawings hidden in Modigliani painting

Haifa University discovers three drawings hidden in Modigliani painting

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On the sidelines of an exhibition devoted to Amadeo Modigliani organized from October at the Barnes Foundation in Philadelphia, researchers from the Hecht Museum of the University of Haifa discovered under a painting, “Nude with a hat”, three drawings under Unreleased backgrounds showcasing the artist’s early style, the magazine reported Knowledge of the Arts.

Made in 1908 by the artist, the painting had to undergo a thorough X-ray examination in order to learn more about an underlying design discovered in 2010. To the amazement of the researchers, the analyzes made it possible to discover not one, but three hidden figures.

The figure discovered in 2010 could correspond to a first version of the final table. It is that of Maud Abrantès, mistress and occasional model of Modigliani. The two other representations discovered recently, less discernible, seem to show for one a male silhouette, and for the other a female silhouette – the identity of their models could not yet be established.

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According Knowledge of the Artsthese drawings are surprising because they are far from the characteristic style of Modigliani, “made of stripping and stylization, and of these slender figures, with empty eyes, which borrow as much from African masks as from the art of the Cyclades”.

According to Inna Berkowits, art historian from the University of Haifa, “Nude with a hat” is thus akin to a real “sketchbook on canvas” and testifies to an “endless search for expression
artistic” at Modigliani.

‘Portrait of a Young Woman’ (1918) by Amadeo Modigliani. (Credit: Yale University Art Gallery)

Italian Jewish painter and sculptor Amedeo Modigliani led a life of excess. Addicted to alcohol, drugs and women, he died young and poor in Paris in 1920, at the age of 35, of tuberculous meningitis.

Despite this, Modigliani’s output was considerable.

His seductive personalities, such as “Nu reclining on a white cushion” (1917), “Female nude” (1916) and “Seated nude” (1916) constitute many of his best-known works today. But by the start of the 20th century, these provocative paintings proved controversial, shocking the French establishment.

In 1917, these paintings were included in Modigliani’s only solo exhibition of his entire life, but faced censorship for indecency: a curator objected to the painter’s depiction of pubic hair, finding it offensive.

The models appear relaxed, their emboldened and buxom bodies and their dark almond-shaped eyes gazing with flirtatious confidence.

The sensuality of these characters suggests changes in the lives of these young women, who were becoming more and more independent at this time.

Born in 1884 in Livorno to a middle-class Sephardic Jewish family, Modigliani moved to Paris in 1906 to develop his career.

Bohemian and cosmopolitan Paris was at the center of art in the world, and the city was a place of pleasures and had offered the painter new ideas and opinions which had challenged his certainties. He had met poets, authors and musicians and had been influenced by the work of other artists, such as Cézanne, then recently deceased, as well as contemporaries such as Toulouse-Lautrec and Picasso.

‘Nude’, (1917) by Amadeo Modigliani. (Courtesy Tate Modern)

Modigliani thus changed his traditional style for something more abstract and bright colors. “You can’t imagine the new themes I came up with in purple, dark orange and ochre,” he said.

But Modigliani also had strong ambitions in the field of sculpture, and the form of these sculptures reflects his interest in Egyptian, Cambodian and African art.

During a visit to his studio, British sculptor Jacob Epstein, a friend of Modigliani, saw his series of sculpted heads and later said: “At night he would store candles on top of each other and he obtained an effect comparable to that of a primitive temple. A middle legend claimed that Modigliani, under the influence of hashish, hugged his sculptures. »

‘La femme au chignon’ (1911-1912) by Amadeo Modigliani. (Credit: Merzbacher Kunststiftung)

Although Modigliani’s aspirations as a sculptor were short-lived due to his lack of financial resources and ill health – dust from carving stone could have aggravated his respiratory problems – the style that he had developed with long necks, oval and elongated faces and almond-shaped eyes that would later be characterized in his paintings.

Modigliani continued his foray into stone via his portraits, and several rooms are devoted to paintings by his clients and friends, many of whom were other artists living in Paris.

Among them are Juan Gris, Diego Rivera and Pablo Picasso as well as other Jews such as Moïse Kisling, the Lithuanian cubist sculptor Jacques Lipchitz, and the poet and painter Max Jacob, with whom Modigliani often discussed faith. Jacob is the subject of a series of portraits and a graphite drawing, completed in 1915, dedicated by Modigliani to his close friend and “brother”.

Amedeo Modigliani, Léopold Zborowski, Anders Osterlind and Nanic Osterlind, Haut-de-Cagnes, 1919. (Credit: Association Anders Osterlind)

Modigliani was part of the Jewish artistic community, explained a few years ago Simonetta Fraquelli, curator and specialist of Modigliani, on the occasion of an exhibition in London. “He was very proud to be Jewish and didn’t hide it. »

But according to the Jewish ChronicleFraquelli also claimed that Modigliani was slightly different from his contemporaries, in that it was in Paris that he first encountered prejudice – when many Jewish artists had left Eastern Europe. ‘Is because of anti-Semitism.

Although Modigliani knew many people, we repeatedly find the same individuals in his work.

In his later years, for his models, he turned mostly to his inner circle of close friends and lovers. Among them were the Jewish poet, writer and art dealer Leopold Zborowki and his partner Anna Sierzpowski, known as Hanka.

‘Jeanne Hébuterne’ (1919) by Amedeo Modigliani. (Credit: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York)

Despite a succession of tumultuous relationships with women, Jeanne Hébuterne would become one of the most important people in her life. She was the mother of his child and Modigliani’s favorite and most consistent model – he painted her more than 20 times.

The couple met when she was 19 and an art student. They moved in together against the wishes of her Catholic parents. One of Jeanne’s last portraits (‘Jeanne Hébuterne’, 1919) depicts her seated, one slender finger resting on her cheek, the rest of her hand curling delicately under her chin.

Anne Joseph participated in the writing of this article.

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