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AMEDEO MODIGLIANI (ITALIAN 1884-1920)

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AMEDEO MODIGLIANI (ITALIAN 1884-1920)
NU ACCROUPI, c.1916-17
signed (lower right), pencil on paper
44cm x 33.2cm (17 ¼in x 13in)
The Leicester Galleries, London, from whom acquired by Roland, Browse & Delbanco Ltd, August 1947;Acquired from the above by the father of the present owner, c.1950s.
Exhibited:Leicester Galleries, London, Artists of Fame and of Promise, Part Two, August-September 1947, no. 14. Looking today at this delicate, elegant drawing by Amedeo Modigliani, radiating as it does a sense of calm and certainty, it is hard to imagine the circumstances of its making, the extremity of Modigliani’s life in Paris, as he drifted from shambolic studio to dishevelled room, from Montparnasse to Montmartre and back. The only evidence, in a way, of any of the circumstances of the drawing’s making is the tiny – and somehow perfect – pinhole to the top centre, which immediately placed it amongst the many such drawings that Modigliani would attach to his bare studio walls, in search of inspiration and in the hope of sales. The model in this drawing also has nothing really to hold her to the physical world, to Paris at the turn of the 20th century, to the working-class streets in which artists found their sitters amongst the laundry girls, prostitutes and other habitués of the demi-monde. She has been turned instead into ‘a Modigliani’- and such is Modigliani’s profound impact on the history of modern art, we know exactly what ‘a Modigliani’ looks like. Her body is reduced to sinuous curves in counterpoint, lightly shaded to hint at a sense of volume. Her face is a deliberate mask, part-African, part-Cycladic, anchored by a long curving nose, with two blank, pupil-less almond eyes that somehow – despite their emptiness – return our gaze. Dating the work precisely is very difficult, although the ease of the design, its sensuous flow, suggests some point during the years of the Great War when Modigliani turned away from sculpture – up to that point his passion, the reason that drove him to Paris – and became almost exclusively a painter. The drawing certainly has a painterly quality. The figure is set up for contrasting blocks of colour: pink skin, white pillow and dark, plain studio backdrop. The subtle contrapposto of her body creates movement and depth, whilst preserving a stillness and hieratic quality that underpins much of Modigliani’s painting from the last five years or so of his life. And 1917, of course, is the year of his great series of painted nudes. A year earlier, Modigliani had met the Polish poet-turned-art dealer, Léopold Zborowski, perhaps the only man who could deal with the artist’s notorious temperament – one minute full of charm, the next seized with rage – all exacerbated by drugs and alcohol. It was ‘Zbo’ who created the market for the artist’s work and is in most part responsible for his recognition as one of the great geniuses of modern French art. This is certainly how Modigliani would have been known to the sophisticated London audience that attended the Leicester Galleries’ 1947 exhibition of ‘Artists of Fame and of Promise’, where the present work was shown and sold; Modigliani was shown alongside Picasso as ‘fame’. Intriguingly, the work sold to another gallery – Roland, Browse & Delbanco, which at that time was relatively newly formed and trying to carve out a similar niche to that of the Leicester Galleries, as purveyors of the best in continental modernism.

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[ translate ]

AMEDEO MODIGLIANI (ITALIAN 1884-1920)
NU ACCROUPI, c.1916-17
signed (lower right), pencil on paper
44cm x 33.2cm (17 ¼in x 13in)
The Leicester Galleries, London, from whom acquired by Roland, Browse & Delbanco Ltd, August 1947;Acquired from the above by the father of the present owner, c.1950s.
Exhibited:Leicester Galleries, London, Artists of Fame and of Promise, Part Two, August-September 1947, no. 14. Looking today at this delicate, elegant drawing by Amedeo Modigliani, radiating as it does a sense of calm and certainty, it is hard to imagine the circumstances of its making, the extremity of Modigliani’s life in Paris, as he drifted from shambolic studio to dishevelled room, from Montparnasse to Montmartre and back. The only evidence, in a way, of any of the circumstances of the drawing’s making is the tiny – and somehow perfect – pinhole to the top centre, which immediately placed it amongst the many such drawings that Modigliani would attach to his bare studio walls, in search of inspiration and in the hope of sales. The model in this drawing also has nothing really to hold her to the physical world, to Paris at the turn of the 20th century, to the working-class streets in which artists found their sitters amongst the laundry girls, prostitutes and other habitués of the demi-monde. She has been turned instead into ‘a Modigliani’- and such is Modigliani’s profound impact on the history of modern art, we know exactly what ‘a Modigliani’ looks like. Her body is reduced to sinuous curves in counterpoint, lightly shaded to hint at a sense of volume. Her face is a deliberate mask, part-African, part-Cycladic, anchored by a long curving nose, with two blank, pupil-less almond eyes that somehow – despite their emptiness – return our gaze. Dating the work precisely is very difficult, although the ease of the design, its sensuous flow, suggests some point during the years of the Great War when Modigliani turned away from sculpture – up to that point his passion, the reason that drove him to Paris – and became almost exclusively a painter. The drawing certainly has a painterly quality. The figure is set up for contrasting blocks of colour: pink skin, white pillow and dark, plain studio backdrop. The subtle contrapposto of her body creates movement and depth, whilst preserving a stillness and hieratic quality that underpins much of Modigliani’s painting from the last five years or so of his life. And 1917, of course, is the year of his great series of painted nudes. A year earlier, Modigliani had met the Polish poet-turned-art dealer, Léopold Zborowski, perhaps the only man who could deal with the artist’s notorious temperament – one minute full of charm, the next seized with rage – all exacerbated by drugs and alcohol. It was ‘Zbo’ who created the market for the artist’s work and is in most part responsible for his recognition as one of the great geniuses of modern French art. This is certainly how Modigliani would have been known to the sophisticated London audience that attended the Leicester Galleries’ 1947 exhibition of ‘Artists of Fame and of Promise’, where the present work was shown and sold; Modigliani was shown alongside Picasso as ‘fame’. Intriguingly, the work sold to another gallery – Roland, Browse & Delbanco, which at that time was relatively newly formed and trying to carve out a similar niche to that of the Leicester Galleries, as purveyors of the best in continental modernism.

[ translate ]
Sale price
Unlock
Estimate
Unlock
Reserve
Unlock
Time, Location
25 Apr 2024
UK, Edinburgh
Auction House
Unlock