Recognised today as having produced some of the most memorable artworks of the early 20th century, Modigliani continues to make waves across the world. Yet despite glory and genius being synonymous with his name, his life was hardly glamorous.
Born in 1884, Modigliani lived a relatively short life and died at the age of 35, penniless and alone. Proving that the quality of his active life was more important than the number of years he lived, Modigliani had declared himself an artist at the age of 11. This passionate nature displayed in his youth did not dissipate where his life was dictated by love, heartbreak, adventure and experimentation.
Inspired by the work of Nietzsche and Baudelaire, Modigliani was progressive and his works were arguably too radical for the time in which they were produced.
Influenced by a myriad of sources ranging from Cycladic, Etruscan, African, Asian, Buddhist, and Italian – Modigliani formed a highly unique mode. The elongated faces and figures were, and still are, unlike any other artist’s work and express an unusual genius in capturing the human form both physically and emotionally.
Although he spent time studying under artists in Rome, it was in Paris that Modigliani truly transformed. Under the wing of the avant-garde movement, Modigliani sketched and drew nudes at school, where he formed the elongated, simplistic, dream-like figures known across the world.
However, Modigliani’s genius came at a price. Plagued by incurable tuberculosis – a disease that was contractible and feared at the time – he used alcohol and drugs to conceal his sickly state. It was the combination of a sick body and substance abuse that resulted in his untimely death.
The most recent display of Modigliani’s work was at the Estorick Collection of Modern Italian Art in Canonbury in London in 2015, boasting 30 drawings from the collection of Paul Alexander, Modigliani’s friend and patron at the start of his career. While impressive, Tate’s proclamation that the 2017 exhibition is to be the ‘biggest retrospective yet’, it sets the bar of the expectation and excitement quite high. His life and the uniqueness of his work are a reflection of an intricate genius, which will result in a multilayered exhibition displaying his artwork and reflecting his life.