Ways to support us
About The Art Story a 501(c)3 Non-Profit Org
Amedeo Modigliani Photo

Amedeo Modigliani

Italian Painter and Sculptor

Born: July 12, 1884 - Livorno, Italy
Died: January 24, 1920 - Paris, France
Movements and Styles:
"Every great work of art should be considered like any work of nature. First of all from the point of view of its aesthetic reality and then not just from its development and the mastery of its creation but from the standpoint of what has moved and agitated its creator."
1 of 6
Amedeo Modigliani Signature
"When I know your soul, I will paint your eyes."
2 of 6
Amedeo Modigliani Signature
"What I am searching for is neither the real nor the unreal, but the subconscious, the mystery of what is instinctive in the human race."
3 of 6
Amedeo Modigliani Signature
"With one eye you are looking at the outside world, while with the other you are looking within yourself."
4 of 6
Amedeo Modigliani Signature
"The function of art is to struggle against obligation."
5 of 6
Amedeo Modigliani Signature
"Always speak out and keep forging ahead. The man who cannot find new ambitions and even a new person within himself, who is always destined to wrestle with what has remained rotten and decadent in his own personality, is not a man."
6 of 6
Amedeo Modigliani Signature

Summary of Amedeo Modigliani

A central participant in the École de Paris, Modigliani modernized two of the enduring themes of art history: the portrait and the nude. Characterized by a sense of melancholy, elongated proportions, and mask-like faces influenced by such sources as Constantin Brancusi and African art, Modigliani's portraits are both specific and highly stylized, each uniquely revealing its sitter's inner life, while at the same time unmistakably "Modiglianized," to use the words of one critic. Modigliani's nudes scandalized audiences with their depiction of features such as pubic hair and their frank, unadorned sexuality. The subject of three biographical movies, Modigliani's legacy is inextricably bound up with his tragic and bohemian life: his fragile health, which plagued him since childhood; his perpetual pennilessness; and - most famously - his over-the-top, self-destructive lifestyle, which included sexual debauchery and overuse of drugs and alcohol.


  • Modigliani upended the tradition of the nude. Modern in their candid sensuality, his works in this genre are noticeably devoid of the modesty and mythological subtext present in many earlier depictions of nude figures. Because of these qualities - along with the artist's notorious womanizing - Modigliani's nudes were scandalously received at the time they were created.
  • Modigliani's portraiture achieves a unique combination of specificity and generalization. His portraits convey his subjects' personalities, while his trademark stylization and use of recurring motifs - long necks and almond-shaped eyes - lends them uniformity. Modigliani's portraiture also serves as a vital art historic record, comprising a gallery of major figures of the École de Paris circle, to which he belonged following his move to Paris in 1906.
  • The work of the Romanian sculptor Constantin Brancusi was perhaps the single most important influence on Modigliani's creative development. Although Modigliani is best known as a painter, he focused on sculpture early on in his career, and, some writers have argued, may have regarded his true calling as that of sculptor. The sculptures Modigliani created in 1909-14, of which twenty-five carvings and one woodcut survive, were highly influential on his work as a painter, helping him arrive at the abstracted and linear vocabulary of his painting.

Biography of Amedeo Modigliani

Amedeo Modigliani Photo

Amedeo, or "Dedo," Modigliani was the youngest of four children born to Jewish parents, Flaminio and Eugenia, in Livorno, Italy, home to a large Jewish community. Shortly before his birth, the family businesses had fallen onto hard times, forcing the Modiglianis to declare bankruptcy. Amedeo's timely arrival may have resulted in the rescue of many valuable heirlooms; according to family legend, soldiers were forced to avoid Eugenia in childbirth as they came to repossess the furniture, in accordance with an old Italian custom that forbade the seizure of any possessions in the bed of a woman in labor.

Progression of Art

The Jewess (1908)

The Jewess

The Jewess was the first painting Modigliani sold after settling in Paris in 1906. It was purchased by his friend and patron, Paul Alexandre, who was so taken with the work that he had Modigliani paint it into the background of three additional commissioned portraits. Although wearing a composed expression, the stark whiteness of the sitter's face contrasts harshly with her dark apparel, giving the composition and inner tension and suggesting strong emotions lying beneath the surface. The painting's melancholic overtones have invited comparison with the work of Picasso's Blue Period. The painting is also one of the few Jewish-themed works by Modigliani, who was of Sephardic Jewish descent and publically embraced his Jewish identity.

Oil on canvas - Re Cove Hakone Museum, Kanagawa

Head (c. 1910-12)
c. 1910-12


Although inspired by Brancusi's marble work, Modigliani's sculptures were often made from softer, less expensive limestone, as in this work. Head's graceful contours and abstracted features suggest Brancusi's influence, while the elongated proportions - specifically, the swan-like neck - is reminiscent of ancient Egyptian busts, among the non-Western art forms that influenced Modigliani's work. The subject's elongated neck and nose, and slit-like eyes also closely resemble the artist's handling of these features in his portraits and nudes, suggesting the close connection between his work in sculpture and two-dimensional media.

Limestone - Private collection

Portrait of Pablo Picasso (1915)

Portrait of Pablo Picasso

Althought insecure about his own work, Modigliani had mixed feelings about Picasso. Modigliani was envious of his rival's success, but drawn to his charismatic personality and artistic talent. These competing feelings emerge in this portrait: this ambivalence is suggested in the two-toned face, while the overall gestural, uneven application of paint hints at inner conflict. Yet, the round face and facial features resemble Southeast Asian depictions of Buddha, showing Modigliani's respect for Picasso's wisdom and experience. This is literally spelled out on the lower right side of the painting with the French word savoir ("to know").

Oil on paper mounted on card - Private collection

Jacques and Berthe Lipchitz (1916)

Jacques and Berthe Lipchitz

This double portrait of Jacques Lipchitz and his wife, Berthe, exemplifies Modigliani's talent for eliciting the inner life of his subjects. Although his stylized method of painting presents two mask-like faces, they reveal subtle clues about the personality of each sitter. Berthe has an open, kindly face, conveyed by the brightness of the paint and downward tilting eyes. Jacques, with his small, compressed features sloping inward, appears calculating and suspicious. Wanting to pay his friend Modigliani as much as possible for his work, Jacques Lipchitz insisted on further changes after its completion; as a result, the painting took nearly two weeks to finish.

Oil on canvas - The Art Institute of Chicago

Standing Blonde Nude with Dropped Chemise (1917)

Standing Blonde Nude with Dropped Chemise

Modigliani's nudes are often frank depictions of sensuality that frequently reference the traditional handling of this theme, but without the mythological context of their artistic precursors. The present work, for example, suggests Sandro Botticelli's Birth of Venus - a painting with which Modigliani was undoubtedly familiar from his studies in Florence - through such features as the subject's long blonde hair, tilted head, and the figure's contrapposto. The classic composition, however, is skillfully subverted and heavily modernized. While Botticelli's subject artfully covers her genitals with her flowing locks and smiles placidly, Modigliani's sitter draws attention to this area with her dropped chemise and confronts the viewer with a slight smirk. Such features of the Modigliani painting likely contributed to the uproar generated by the artist's now legendary exhibition at Berthe Weill's gallery in 1917.

Oil on canvas - Private collection

Portrait of Jeanne Hebuterne (1918)

Portrait of Jeanne Hebuterne

When Modigliani entered into a relationship with the nineteen-year-old Jeanne Hebuterne, his close friends hoped that the serious young woman would inspire Modigliani to curb his excesses. Hebuterne, however, loved the artist with a blind adoration that made no demands. Although there were no fundamental changes in his behavior, Modigliani's portraits of his young lover suggest the artist's newfound sense of peace and serenity. Less stylized than those in the artist's earlier works, the sitter's features, especially the sly, sideways gaze, suggest a psychological clarity that communicates Hebuterne's inner character.

Oil on canvas - Private collection

Similar Art

Influences and Connections

Influences on Artist
Amedeo Modigliani
Influenced by Artist
Open Influences
Close Influences

Useful Resources on Amedeo Modigliani

Related Artists

Related Movements & Topics

Do more

Content compiled and written by Tracee Ng

Edited and published by The Art Story Contributors

"Amedeo Modigliani Artist Overview and Analysis". [Internet]. . TheArtStory.org
Content compiled and written by Tracee Ng
Edited and published by The Art Story Contributors
Available from:
First published on 21 Jan 2012. Updated and modified regularly
[Accessed ]