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Sitting Nude

Amedeo Modigliani
  • Object number 2060
  • Date (1917)
  • Dimensions 115 x 72 cm
  • Medium Oil on canvas
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Modigliani’s Sitting Nude

A young woman covers her loins with a cloth. Her body is round, curvaceous and voluptuous. A striking contrast to Modigliani’s other women. Here too, though, you find the stylized, oval face, elegant neck and almond-shaped eyes. All of which are so typical for this flamboyant artist.

Sitting versus reclining

Modigliani’s reclining nudes look at the viewer provocatively. The sitting and standing ones create a more reserved, naive impression. They’re young, vulnerable and inconspicuous. They do not show themselves easily and use a hand or a piece of clothing to shield themselves from unwelcome eyes. The same goes for this Sitting Nude – one of the most beautiful portraits of a sitting woman that the passionate Italian ever painted. Who is this woman? She might be a professional model: Modigliani often worked with them. But we can’t be certain.

Tragic end

Great minds often die young and Amedeo Modigliani was no exception. A combination of tuberculosis, excessive drug use and alcoholism killed him at the age of barely 36. The following day, Jeanne Hébuterne threw herself out of a window. She was the mother of his daughter and heavily pregnant with their second child. Modigliani is said to have encouraged her suicide. It meant he and his beloved model would be together forever.

Sensual tones

Modigliani’s name puts us in mind of elegant lines and stylized forms. The line is both the end and the means for him. It brings his forms to life. His use of colour is also striking. The tones are decorative and sensual. The orange of the woman in this Sitting Nude causes her to light up. The background and the carpet on which she sits are painted in warm copper colours.

Le Bateau-Lavoir and Picasso

Amedeo Modigliani was always seeking the ideal woman in his art. In 1906, the Italian exchanged his homeland for Paris, where he continued his quest. He befriended the avant-garde artists of Le Bateau-Lavoir, a studio complex in Montmartre which Picasso frequented as well. He also met Leopold Zborowski in Montmartre. It was at this art dealer’s request that Modigliani produced some 30 nude paintings from 1917 onwards, including our Sitting Nude.

Parisian artist, bohemian and homme fatal

Modigliani was a real homme fatal, with aristocratic flair, dressed like a dandy in a velvet suit and black cape, embellished with a red silk scarf. According to Picasso, Modigliani was the only artist in Paris who knew how to dress. Women threw themselves at him. Modigliani didn’t like to exhibit: there was just one solo show of his work. He preferred to give his art away to female friends. Or else he traded paintings for food in restaurants. He died poor. Since his death, his reputation has increased enormously. Nine books, a play, a documentary and three movies have been dedicated to his life. His paintings are now among the most expensive in the world.

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