Friday, August 21, 2009

"Landscape! It simply doesn't exist!" Amedeo Modigliani

At least for him, it didn't. As Claude Roy puts it in his book about the artist, Modigliani's career was "one long meditation on the mystery of the human face."

I remember seeing a show of Modigliani's work in LA severa
l years ago - at first glance they all looked remarkably similar, but on closer examination, it was amazing to see how much the distinct personality of each individual came through. The woman with the cigarette at left, entitled Portrait of Madame Amédée carries a whiff of smugness, a haughty air, doesn't it?

How does he manage to model the form and give such a strong sense of the person with just line and color? There are few accessories, no watches, books, or decorative wallpaper for him.

You always hear about his drinking, use of drugs, and how early
death of tuberculosis at 36. But I didn't know much about his destruction of his own work. Apparently, in 1909, he spent a lot of time meeting and talking with Brancusi, and was very much encouraged to spend time sculpting. He did so, creating scores of African-influenced pieces. Imagine, if we could look back to Leghorn, Italy somehow, and watch from our vantage point 100 years later, and see a 25 year old man, piling a load of sculptures into a hand-cart, and hauling the whole thing down to the the canal, and dumping them in.

So I guess it's good not to live too close to a body of water - or maybe it is. Do you ever destroy your work? Sometimes I fiddle with them so long I might as well have started over. In this one, August, I started with 3 figures, painted one out entirely, changed the background, redid each figure, and then finally decided to stop. It's in the corner mocking me.

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