ALBERTINA — SEPTEMBER 17, 2021 TO JANUARY 9, 2022

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Amedeo Modigliani | Seated Nude (Detail), 1917 | Royal Museum of Fine Arts Antwerp, www.artinflanders.be, Photo: Rik Klein Gotink

The Nude Painter

Modigliani

Even if he painted more portraits, today Modigliani is admired first and foremost for his nudes. They have a permanent place in the history of nude painting, next to such seminal works as the Renaissance representations of Venus, 19th-century salon painting, Goya’s Nude Maja, Ingres’s Grande Odalisque, and Manet’s Olympia.

In 1916, Modigliani devoted himself to the subject of the nude for the first time. The art dealer Leopold Zborowski, coming from Poland, persuaded the two collectors Jonas Netter and Roger Dutilleul to acquire a substantial number of works, which helped Modigliani out of a precarious financial situation at least temporarily. Moreover, Zborowski also made the models and a studio in the rue Joseph Bara available to him, where Modigliani could withdraw when painting his nudes.

  • Amedeo Modigliani | Female Semi-Nude, 1918

    The ALBERTINA Museum, Vienna – The Batliner Collection
  • Amedeo Modigliani | Reclining Nude, 1917

    © bpk / The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York
  • Amedeo Modigliani | Female Nude, ca. 1911

    © Musée des beaux-arts, Rouen. Photo: C. Lancien, C. Loisel /Réunion des Musées Métropolitains Rouen Normandie
  • Amedeo Modigliani | Female Nude Reclining on a Pillow, ca. 1917

    Staatsgalerie Stuttgart © bpk, Staatsgalerie Stuttgart
  • Amedeo Modigliani: Seated Nude, 1917 Oil on canvas (Koninklijk Museum voor Schone Kunsten Antwerpen) © KMSKA, Lukasweb – Art in Flanders, Photo: Hugo Maertens

    Amedeo Modigliani | Seated Nude (Detail), 1917

    Royal Museum of Fine Arts Antwerp, www.artinflanders.be, Photo: Rik Klein Gotink

Intimate yet Distant Bodies

Until 1917, Modigliani painted some twenty-five female nudes, which he presented against red backdrops. His nudes are characterized by a high degree of intimacy vis-à-vis the viewer and an obvious naturalness of the naked body. They are sensual in their shocking close-up views, powerful presence, and uninhibited exposure of corporeality, yet appear less erotic in the way their complexion is rendered, and removed because of their bold contours. The openly exposed pubic hair violates a taboo. The extreme simplification of the silhouettes—geometrization, formalization, and abstraction—is an archaic stylistic feature borrowed from Cycladic figurines. In their natural corporeality, Modigliani’s nudes are, however, far removed from the stylized caryatides of his early work.

Amedeo Modigliani: Seated Nude, 1917 Oil on canvas (Koninklijk Museum voor Schone Kunsten Antwerpen) © KMSKA, Lukasweb – Art in Flanders, Photo: Hugo Maertens

Amedeo Modigliani | Seated Nude (Detail), 1917

Royal Museum of Fine Arts Antwerp, www.artinflanders.be, Photo: Rik Klein Gotink

His nudes are characterized by a high degree of intimacy vis-à-vis the viewer and an obvious naturalness of the naked body

In 1917, Modigliani presented twenty nudes at Berthe Weill’s gallery in Paris, the only solo exhibition he had during his lifetime. It turned out a scandal. When the police threatened to confiscate the pictures on grounds of being an “offense against public decency,” the nudes in the gallery’s display window were removed. Modigliani did not sell a single picture and for the rest of his life would only paint another ten chastely covered nudes, as well as pictures in the nude of his great love Jeanne Hébuterne.

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