The biggest Modigliani exhibition at Tate Modern
Francesco Carelli, University Milano
Tate Modern stages the most comprehensive Modigliani exhibition ever held in the UK, bringing together a dazzling range of his iconic portraits, sculptures and the largest ever group of nudes to be shown in UK. Although he died tragically young, Amedeo Modigliani (1884–1920) was a groundbreaking artist who pushed the boundaries of the art of his time. Including almost 100 works, the exhibition will re-evaluate this familiar figure, looking afresh at the experimentation that shaped his career and made Modigliani one of the greatest artists of the twentieth century.
A section devoted to Modigliani’s nudes, perhaps the best-known and most provocative of the artist’s works, is a major highlight. In these striking canvases Modigliani invented shocking new compositions that modernised figurative painting. His explicit depictions also proved controversial and led to the police censoring his only solo lifetime exhibition, at Berthe Weill’s gallery in 1917, on the grounds of indecency. This group of nudes will be the largest group ever seen in the UK, with paintings including Seated Nude 1917 (Royal Museum of Fine Arts, Antwerp) and Reclining Nude c.1919 (Museum of Modern Art, New York).
Born in Livorno, Italy and working in Paris from 1906, Modigliani’s career was one of continual evolution. The exhibition begins with the artist’s arrival in Paris, exploring the creative environments and elements of popular culture that were central to his life and work. Inspired by the art of Paul Cézanne, Henri Toulouse- Lautrec and Pablo Picasso, Modigliani began to experiment and develop his own distinctive visual language, seen in early canvases such as Bust of a Young Woman 1908 (Lille Métropole Musée d’Art Moderne, Villeneuved’Ascq) and The Beggar of Leghorn 1909 (Private Collection). His circle included poets, dealers, writers and musicians, many of whom posed for his portraits including Diego Rivera 1914 (Kunstsammlung Nordrhein- Westfalen, Düsseldorf), Juan Gris 1915 (Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York) and Jean Cocteau 1916 (The Henry and Rose Pearlman Foundation, Princeton University Art Museum).
The exhibition also reconsider the role of women in Modigliani’s practice, particularly poet and writer Beatrice Hastings. Hastings is shown not simply as the artist’s muse, but as an important figure in the cultural landscape of the time.
Modigliani featured exceptional examples of the artist’s lesser-known work in sculpture, bringing together a substantial group of his Heads made before the First World War. Although the artist’s ill-health and poverty eventually dictated otherwise, he spent a short but intense period focusing on carving, influenced by contemporaries and friends including Constantin Brâncusi and Jacob Epstein.
Suffering from poor health, Modigliani left Paris in 1918 for an extended period in the South of France. Here he adopted a more Mediterranean colour palette and, instead of his usual metropolitan sitters, he began painting local peasants and children such as Young Woman of the People 1918 (Los Angeles County Museum of Art) and Boy with a Blue Jacket 1919 (Indianapolis Museum of Art).
The exhibition concludes with some of Modigliani’s best-known depictions of his closest circle. Friends and lovers provided him with much-needed financial and emotional support during his turbulent life while also serving as models. These included his dealer and close friend Léopold Zborowski and his companion Hanka,
and Jeanne Hébuterne, the mother of Modigliani’s child and one of the most important women in his life.
When Modigliani died in 1920 from tubercular meningitis, Jeanne tragically committed suicide. Tate Modern brings together several searching portraits of her from Modgliani’s final years, on loan from international collections such as the Philadelphia Museum of Art and Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, which depict her in a range of guises from young girl to mother.
As part of the most comprehensive exhibition of Modigliani’s work ever held in the UK, the virtual reality room bring visitors closer into the artist’s world, enriching their understanding of his life and art. Headsets from the leading VR platform Vive provide an immersive layer of interpretation as visitors are invited to step into early twentieth century Paris. Drawing on archival material and new research, the experience recreates aspects of Modigliani’s adopted city, bringing his historical context to life.
The city of Paris was vital to Modigliani and his move there in 1906 from Italy transformed his work. It introduced him to an important new artistic community that included Pablo Picasso and Jean Cocteau. The exhibition explore the creative environments and elements of popular culture in Paris which were central to Modigliani’s art, with Vive’s VR technology adding a fresh interpretive dimension.
At the start of the 20th century, Modigliani was a pioneering force in art innovation, pushing boundaries and new possibilities which inspired his peers and contemporaries. At Vive, we see something similar at the start of the 21st century with VR, and with Vive we can revolutionise the way people create and experience art.