Saturday, October 20, 2007


Amedeo Clemente Modigliani (1884-1920) was an Italian artist born in Livorno of Jewish heritage, practicing both painting and sculpture who pursued his career for the most part in France. There he developed a unique style : today his graceful portraits and lush nudes at once evoke his name, but during his brief career few apart from his fellow artists were aware of his gifts. Modigliani had to struggle against poverty and chronic ill health, dying of tuberculosis and excesses of drink and drugs at the age of 35.

In 1965, the Young Farmer fetched £ 22,320 at Parke-Bernet in New York and Christie's sold it for £ 59,574 in 1969 in Tokyo. It was the first sale of Christie's in Japan which was a great success. In 2006, the portrait of the art dealer Paul Guillaune who helped Modigliani in his débuts went for $ 4.8 million under the hammer at Sotheby's to Nahmad Gallery, dealers in New York.

After the First World War, Modigliani returned to Paris. After several successful exhibitions in England, English collectors started to buy his paintings. But by the end of the year Modigliani became seriously ill with tuberculosis. On January 24 1920 he died. On the following day the pregnant his companion Jeanne Hébuterne committed suicide. A portrait of her went for $26.9 million in a sale in 2006 ; it had fetched $15.1 million in 1998.

The artist and his companion are buried together in the Père Lachaise cemetery in Paris. Their orphan daughter Jeanne (1918-1984) was adopted by Modigliani’s sister in Florence; later she would write an important biography of her father Modigliani:Man and Myth.

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