“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.”
A central participant in the Ecole 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 specialized and highly stylized, each uniquely revealing its sitter’s inner life, while at the same time unmistakably a Modigliani.
His 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 borderline poverty; and, most famously, his over-the-top, self-destructive lifestyle, which included sexual debauchery and overuse of drugs and alcohol.