RICHARD  NATHANSON

Tel: +44 (0)20 8788 2718

P.O.Box 515

Fax: +44 (0)20 8785 6345

London SW15 2WB

Email: richard@richardnathanson.co.uk

Website: www.richardnathanson.co.uk

 

 

 

AMEDEO MODIGLIANI

1884 - 1920

 

 

 

 

Kneeling Caryatid   blue crayon  17  x 10 ins                                                                   

 

 

 

 

 

Head and Shoulders, Full Face with Necklace  c.1911-13  16 5/8 x 10 3/8 ins         

 

 

 

Many of Modigliani’s drawings cannot be precisely dated. This beautiful drawing relates to a number of his sculptures. See: Modigliani, Dessins, Sculptures’ A.Ceroni, Edizioni del Milione, Milan 1965.

 

 

Provenance:

Dr Paul Alexandre, Paris [acquired from the artist].
Thence by descent to the present owner.

 

Reproduced:

Full page ‘The Unknown Modigliani’ by Noël Alexandre, 
Page 294, No. 221 Mercatorfonds, 1993.

Noël Alexandre dedicated the above publication:

To my friend Richard Nathanson whose enthusiasm and 
artistic sensitivity have encouraged me to publish this account.

Exhibited:   

Drawings from The Collection of Paul Alexandre’ 

Palazzo Grassi, Venice, September 1993 - January 1994

The Museum of Fine Art, Montreal, February - April 1996

The Museum of Fine Arts, Rouen, July - October 1996

 

                      

 

 

 

 Anna Akhmatova  black crayon 16 3/4 x 10 3/8 ins                                                      

 

 

This rare and moving drawing portrays Anna Akhmatova both as ancient Egyptian goddess. And poet lost in her dream.

Erotic in its restraint and languid, sensual pose, it evokes the extenuated body and hair of Egyptian goddesses and queens portrayed in the sculptures and paintings which Modigliani and Akhmatova visited together at the Louvre during the summer of 1911.

Modigliani was captivated by Akhmatova’s extraordinary beauty, her nobility and statuesque presence which he saw mirrored in the women of ancient Egypt. And given his own poetic, mystical nature, he may even have imagined her, in a former existence, as an Egyptian queen.

Modigliani strove to purify his line, so he might convey the essential spirit of his subject. Of the three ‘Akhmatova’ drawings reproduced in The Unknown Modigliani [Nos. 91-93] this is the most simply drawn - without extraneous line or artefact to the extent even of the left arm being merely suggested; so that all attention rests upon the attitude of her head and revealing posture. So assured and expressive is the purity of line. And so perfect its placing upon the page, that it was probably the last to be drawn.

 

 

            Anna Akhmatova                                                                                                    

 

Anna Akhmatova [1889-1966] is considered, with Boris Pasternak and Osip Mandelstam, the greatest Russian poet of the twentieth century. She met Modigliani during her first visit to Paris, on honeymoon with her husband, in 1910. She returned alone in May 1911 and became very close to Modigliani. Theirs was a union of spirit derived from their shared passion for poetry.

Akhmatova records that Modigliani gave her some sixteen drawings he drew of her. All disappeared. In Memoir of Modigliani [1958 - 65] she recalls their love for each other:

‘In 1910 I saw him very rarely, just a few times. But he wrote to me during the whole winter. I remember some sentences from his letter. One was: Vous êtes en moi comme une hantise’ (you are obsessively part of me). He did not tell me that he was writing poems.

I know now that what most fascinated him about me was my ability to read other people’s thoughts, to dream other people’s dreams and a few other things of which everyone who knew me had long since been aware. He repeatedly said to me: ‘On communique..’ (we understand each other). And often: ‘il n’y a que vous pour réaliser cela.’ (Only you can make that happen).

We both probably failed to realise a crucial point: everything that was happening was for both of us but the prehistory of our lives – of his very short life, of my long life. Art had not yet ignited our passions, its all-consuming fire had not yet transformed us; it must have been the light and airy hour of dawn. But the future, which announces its coming long before it arrives, was knocking at the window. It lurked behind the lanterns, invaded our dreams and took on the frightening form of Baudelaire’s Paris which lay in wait somewhere in the vicinity. And Modigliani’s divine attributes were still veiled. He had the head of Antinoos, and in his eyes was a golden gleam – he was unlike anyone in the world. I shall never forget his voice. He lived in dire poverty, and I don’t know how he lived. He enjoyed no recognition whatsoever as a painter.

At that time (1911) he lived in the Impasse Falguière. He was so poor that in the Jardin du Luxembourg we sat on a bench and not, as was usual, on chairs since you had to pay for them. He complained neither about his poverty nor about the lack of recognition, both of which were clearly apparent. Just once in 1911 he said that the previous winter had been so tough for him that he had been unable to think even of that which was dearest to him.

He seemed to me to be encircled by a girdle of loneliness. I cannot recall him ever greeting anyone in the Jardin du Luxembourg or the Latin Quarter even though everyone knew everyone else there. I never heard him mention the name of an acquaintance, a friend or a fellow painter, and I never heard him joke. I never once saw him drunk, and he never reeked of wine. He evidently did not begin drinking until later, although hashish had already cropped up in his stories. He did not appear to have a steady girlfriend as yet. He never recounted amorous episodes from the past (which everyone else did). He never discussed mundane matters with me. He was communicative, not on account of his domestic upbringing but rather because he was at his creative peak…..

At this time he was busy working on a sculpture in the small yard next to his studio (in the deserted lane you could hear the echo of his hammer), dressed in his working clothes. The walls of his studio were full of incredibly tall portraits (they seemed to stretch from the floor to the ceiling). I have never seen any reproductions – did they survive? He called his sculpture ‘la chose’ – it was exhibited, I think in 1911 at the Independents. He asked me to come and view it, but at the exhibition he did not come over to me because I had not come alone but with friends. The photograph of this ‘chose’ which he gave me disappeared at the time I lost most of my possessions.

He used to rave about Egypt. At the Louvre he showed me the Egyptian collection and told me there was no point I see anything else, ‘tout le reste’.  He drew my head bedecked with the jewellery of Egyptian queens and dancers, and seemed totally overawed by the majesty of Egyptian art. Egypt was probably his last fad. Shortly afterwards he became so independent that his pictures betray no external influence. Today this period is referred to as Modigliani’s Période nègre (Negro Period).

Commenting on the Venus de Milo, he said that women with beautiful figures who were worth modelling or drawing always seemed unshapely when clothed. Whenever it rained (it often rained in Paris) Modigliani took with him a huge old black umbrella. We would sit together under this umbrella on a bench in the Jardin du Luxembourg in the warm summer rain, while nearby slumbered le vieux palais a l’Italienne. We would jointly recite Verlaine, whom we knew by heart, and we were glad we shared the same interests….

It astonished me that Modigliani could find ugly people beautiful and stick by this opinion. I thought even then that he clearly saw the world through different eyes to ours. Everything that was fashionable in Paris and which attracted the most enthusiastic praise did not even come to Modigliani’s attention.

He did not draw me from life but alone at home. He gave me these drawings as a gift; there were sixteen of them. He asked me to frame them and to hang them in my room. They were lost in Tsarskoye Selo during the first revolution. The one that survived is less characteristic of his later nudes than the others.

We talked mostly about poems. We both knew a lot of French poetry: Verlaine, Laforgue, Mallarmé, Baudelaire. Later I met a painter who loved and understood poetry just as Modigliani did – Alexander Tyschler. That happens very rarely with painters.

He never recited Dante to me. Maybe because I still knew no Italian. Once he said to me: ‘I have forgotten to tell you that I am Jewish’. He told me straight away that he had been born near Livorno and was twenty-four years old. (He was actually twenty-six). He told me he had been interested in aviators (today we say pilots) but was disappointed when he met one: they were simply sportsmen. (What did he expect?)….and all around us raged cubism, all-conquering but alien to Modigliani…. 

Modigliani was contemptuous of travellers. He thought travelling was a substitute for real activity. He always carried Les Chants de Maldoror about with him. At the time this book was a rarity. He described how at Easter he had gone to early morning mass in a Russian church to watch the procession of the cross, since he loved ornate ceremonies. And how a ‘seemingly important personage’ (probably from the Embassy), had exchanged an Easter kiss with him. Modigliani probably never really understood what that signified……. 

Once when I went to call on Modigliani, he was out: we had apparently misunderstood one another so I decided to wait several minutes. I was clutching an armful of red roses. A window above the locked gates of the studio was open. Having nothing better to do, I began to toss the flowers in through the window. Then without waiting any longer, I left. 

When we met again, he was perplexed at how I had entered the locked room because he had the key. I explained what had happened, ‘but that’s impossible – they were lying there so beautifully’.

For a long time I thought I would never hear anything from him again……..but I was to hear a great deal of him……….’

In stating that Modigliani cared only for Egyptian art, Akhmatova unwittingly provides a fascinating, touching insight into his absolute single-mindedness. For we know that he was inspired by diverse cultures. And visited other museums. Akhmatova’s imminent return to Russia and Modigliani’s obsessive need to see her, during those few precious weeks together, as frequently as possible among the Egyptian queens and goddesses, so he might portray her in their guise, can be the only explanation for her claim.

 

V Dynasty  The Louvre                                              

  Funerary Relief  18th Dynasty   The Louvre                                    

 

 

Many of the Egyptian reliefs, including those illustrated above, had been buried with the individuals they commemorated to accompany and comfort their spirits into the next world. This would have appealed to Modigliani’s mystical nature. And accorded with his ardent wish to celebrate, preserve and proclaim for all time Akhmatova’s beauty and timeless poetic spirit.

 

 

Indian 10th -11th century                                                

 

 

Modigliani was also inspired by the beauty and sensual movement of the carved Indian deity dancers figures he would have seen at the Musée Guimet. The decorative ‘device’ of pearls strung sensually across the body may well have suggested the short pencil strokes subtly accentuating the sensuality of this drawing – particularly the left breast and thigh.

Perhaps the sight of the small, startlingly handsome young Italian and his tall, strikingly beautiful Russian companion, in fervid conversation filled with youthful hope, stopped a passer-by. As they sheltered close, cocooned and oblivious to the world, beneath a battered, black umbrella shielding them from the beating rain. And recited, in hushed, impassioned voices, to each other or in perfect harmony, the verses they knew by heart and loved so well.

And in the years to come. In the knowledge of the tragedy and triumph that awaited both, would he not have wondered at that moment?

 

 

Provenance:

Dr Paul Alexandre, Paris [acquired from the artist].
Thence by descent to the present owner.

 

Reproduced:

Full page ‘The Unknown Modigliani’ by Noël Alexandre, 
Page 182, [No. 9]1 Mercatorfonds, 1993.

 

Exhibited:   

Drawings from The Collection of Paul Alexandre’ 

Palazzo Grassi, Venice, September 1993 - January 1994

The Museum of Fine Art, Montreal, February - April 1996

The Museum of Fine Arts, Rouen, July - October 1996

In his revised 1996 edition, he catalogues the drawings as being of Akhmatova and mentions her importance in Modigliani's work.

                      

                      

 

 

Head in Left Profile with Chignon – recto 1910-11 black crayon 16 3/4 x 10 3/8 ins

 

Happiness is an angel with a grave face

 

Unusually, the recto and verso drawings relate to three of the twenty-five sculptures - each of which is reproduced below.

The verso drawing is closely related to the carving in the National Gallery of Art Washington. The rich heavy black seems already to be 'feeling' the sculpture.

The dream-like quality of the face. Its length. And implied mass of hair [‘à l’Egyptienne’] with its distinctive fringe, suggest that Modigliani ‘saw’ Akhmatova in this drawing. The deep effect she had upon him and his work is perhaps not fully appreciated. But it is not hard to comprehend given her charismatic beauty and great poetic gift.

Three of Modigliani’s ‘Female Head with Chignon’ limestone heads [in The National Gallery of Art, Washington; The Guggenheim; and Tate Modern] were photographed in Cardoso’s studio on the occasion of Modigliani’s first sculpture exhibition there in March 1911. His obsession with Akhmatova is evident from the fact that he wrote to her throughout the previous winter. And from the phrases she remembers.

 

 

                                                                              The National Gallery of Art, Washington                                                                                           

 

 

At this time he was busy working on a sculpture in the small yard next to his studio (in the deserted lane you could hear the echo of his hammer), dressed in his working clothes. He called his sculpture ‘la chose’ – it was exhibited, I think in 1911 at the Independents. He asked me to come and view it, but at the exhibition he did not come over to me because I had not come alone but with friends. The photograph of this ‘chose’ which he gave me disappeared at the time I lost most of my possessions.

                                                                                                                                                                  Akhmatova

Did he give her a photograph of one of the heads she had helped inspire? And was he angry and hurt because he could not tell her, in the presence of others, how deeply she had inspired him?

 

 

 

 

 

 

In April 1913, Modigliani visited his family in Italy. On 6th May, Paul Alexandre’s birthday, Modigliani sent him two picture postcards from Lucca. The second, of a village in the hills, of which both sides are reproduced above. It is an extraordinary document for it reveals, in six brief lines, Modigliani’s enduring state of mind. And the nature of his unique friendship with Paul Alexandre.

Paul Alexandre shared Modigliani’s lively sense of humour. Flagorneur meaning ‘Sycophant’ or ‘Toady’ playfully mocks his friend’s unwavering belief in his artistic gift. It is qualified by Ami – ‘friend’, showing the warmth and humour of their friendship.

Le Bonheur est un ange au visage grave – ‘Happiness is an angel with a solemn face’.

Over the years, Modigliani would have discussed with Paul Alexandre the meaning of happiness. That for him it had nothing to do with material wealth, reputation, or modish thinking – artistic or otherwise. But, as is confirmed in his letters to Ghilia and his 1907 statement Ce que je cherche…., concerned the uncompromising spiritual search for the timeless beauty and mystery of the human spirit. And his absolute duty to portray it as beautifully, tenderly and truthfully as he was able.

Point de sonnet must link his definition to a favourite sonnet. And le resuscité [misspelt] - ‘The reborn one’ expresses a moment of exaltation. Of artistic spiritual re-awakening in which Modigliani sees even more clearly his path.

Bientôt j’écris – ‘I will write soon’. But he has said all that needs to be said.

This touching communication between two men united in deep friendship and shared understanding, was the last postcard Modigliani sent his friend from his beloved Italy. For he was never to return.

 

 

 Study of Female Head, Full Face, & Studies [pencil] - verso                                             

 

 

The wonderful verso drawing, with its strange, shaded eye, can be related to the sculpture in The Beyeler Foundation [see below].

 

 

                                                                                   The Beyeler Foundation                                                                                                                       

 

 

The small head, relates, very possibly, to the sculpture in the Philadelphia Museum of Art [see below].

  

 

Philadelphia Museum of Fine Art                 

 Detail of verso drawing                                     

 

  

 

Provenance:

Dr Paul Alexandre, Paris [acquired from the artist].
Thence by descent to the present owner.

 

Reproduced:

Full page ‘The Unknown Modigliani’ by Noël Alexandre  Mercatorfonds, 1993. 
Recto - Page 266 [no. 205].
Verso
- Page 410 [no. 404].

 

Exhibited:   

Drawings from The Collection of Paul Alexandre’ 

Palazzo Grassi, Venice, September 1993 - January 1994

The Museum of Fine Art, Montreal, February - April 1996

The Museum of Fine Arts, Rouen, July - October 1996

                                                     

 

 

 

 

Head, Full-Face black crayon 6.75 x 10 3/8 ins                                                                       

 

The oval face, wavy-patterned hair, and curved dome of the head can be linked to the limestone head below, which was photographed in Cardoso’s studio in March 1911.

  

       

Whereabouts unknown                                     

                      

                                                                                                                           

 

Paul Alexandre has recalled his visits with Modigliani to the Trocadéro Museum of Ethnographical Art in Paris. There Picasso and the cubists would also have had their first real experience of looking at African art. For them, its roughly-hewn, original appearance and often violent force helped define their interpretation. But for Modigliani, African art held, as did Cezanne, a different meaning and magic.

 

African art, for him, embodied a spiritual power and belief in tune with his own search for

The mystery of what is instinctive in the human race.

 

It was an art without inhibition and devoid of artifice, taint of patronage, commerce or fashion. It emanated from inexplicable depths of the human soul. And sustained an ageless culture – expressing in a moving, powerful, and imaginative way, its hopes and fears. Its determination to survive and celebrate life.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 This little Warega ‘secret society’ head from the Congo reflects something of that spirit.

                       

 

Provenance:

Dr Paul Alexandre, Paris [acquired from the artist].
Thence by descent to the present owner.

 

Reproduced:

Full page ‘The Unknown Modigliani’ by Noël Alexandre . 
Page 275 [no. 222], Mercatorfonds, 1993.

 

Exhibited:   

Drawings from The Collection of Paul Alexandre’ 

Palazzo Grassi, Venice, September 1993 - January 1994

The Ueno Royal Museum, Tokyo, 1994.
Centro d’Arte San Giovanni, Bruges, 1994.       

The Museum of Fine Art, Montreal, February - April 1996

The Museum of Fine Arts, Rouen, July - October 1996

 

 

 

 

 

Anna Akhmatova as Acrobat  c.1911, black crayon 16 3/4 x 10 3/8 ins                      

 

 

 

 

 

In sensual movement and physical energy, this drawing appears unique in Modigliani’s work.

Also in its imaginatively erotic depiction of Anna Akhmatova.

 

Modigliani met Akhmatova in the summer of 1910 on her honeymoon. She returned the following year, alone, to Paris. And they began an intense affair. Her poetic genius and extraordinary beauty had a profound affect on Modigliani. His sculpture – and the drawings relating to them – are filled with her presence.

 

Modigliani was also captivated by Akhmatova’s nubile sensuality - a quality of which she was extremely proud.

 

Her lifelong friend Valeriya Sreznevskaya records:

 

‘She was a sparkling water sprite, an avid wanderer on foot, climbed like a cat, and swam like a fish...Another feature that marked Akhmatova off from the others was her somnambulism, her moon-walking. On moonlit nights, a thin girl could be seen in a white nightdress walking along the roof of their house in her sleep.’ 

 

 

 

 

  Courtesy of the Anna Akhmatova Museum                                                                                                                             

 

 

 

It is as ‘Acrobat’ that Modigliani chose, in this single instance, to portray Akhmatova’s sensual athleticism. Her long, agile body. And her adored face, with its famous aquiline nose set characteristically amid a mass of hair. Her detached expression is of the dreamer her friend touchingly remembers. The above photograph was taken in 1916. And whilst Modigliani would not have seen it, Akhmatova would, given their relationship and the fact she was so proud of her athleticsm , have certainly demonstrated to him her physical suppleness.

 

It is fascinating how close, in posture and tension, this drawing is to the above photograph.  To our knowledge there exists no other Modigliani drawing with this particular pose and energy.

 

K.Chukosky wrote in Novyi mir, March 1987:

 

'She had a dancer's body. As an adolescent she was five foot eleven inches tall, and so lithe and supple that she could easily touch the nape of her neck when she lay prone.'

 

 

    

 

Viewed horizontally, this drawing relates to the twenty-two   recorded ‘Reclining Nudes’ painted between 1916 and 1919.

And recalls the elongated torso of ‘The Great Nude’ illustrated below.

 

 

        

 Le Grand Nu      Museum of Modern Art, New York                                                                                                  

 

 

 

        

 

 

 

 

Akhmatova’s figure and head, seen horizontally, have a sphinx-like quality.

And bring to mind Sreznevskaya’s description of her ‘climbing like a cat, and swimming like a fish’.

 

 

 

 

ProvenanceDr Paul Alexandre, Paris [acquired from the artist].

                     Thence by descent to the present owner.

 

 

Reproduced: The Unknown Modigliani by Noël Alexandre,

                     Page 164 [no. 67], Mercatorfonds, 1993.

                     

                     In his revised 1996 edition, Noël Alexandre mentions

                     Akhmatova’s importance in Modigliani's work.

                     

                      

 

Exhibited:     Drawings from The Collection of Paul Alexandre

 

                     Venice, Palazzo Grassi, September 1993 – January 1994.

                     Tokyo, The Ueno Royal Museum, Modigliani, 1994.                  

                     Bruges,   Centro d’Arte San Giovanni, 1994.       

                     Montréal, The Museum of Fine Art, 1996.                       

                     Rouen, Musée des Beaux Arts, 1996.

                     Moscow, Pushkin Museum, Modigliani,  2007

                     Reproduced. No. 11.

 

 

 

 

 

   Female Nude in Profile, Frontal View, Arms Folded [with Necklace]c.1911 black crayon 16 3/4 x 10 3/8 ins

 

This drawing is a profile study for Modigliani’s only full length standing stone figure in the Australian National Gallery [approximate height 1.60 metres]. See: Ceroni, Dessins et Scuptures, Edizioni del Milione, 1965, Ill 54 & 55.

The outline of the figure is richly drawn, as though Modigliani's crayon has already begun to carve out the surrounding space.

This is the only profile study for the above sculpture reproduced in The Unknown Modigliani. Ceroni reproduces two studies [Ill. 94 & 95]. However, the head in this drawing is much closer to the sculpture. And to the features of Akhmatova.

Modigliani would have seen Cycladic figures at the Louvre. Their stylised, often pregnant forms and folded arms broadly relate to his sculpture’s outer appearance. However, the right arm would invariably have been folded beneath the left. Excavated from graves and settlements, the majority of known Cycladic figures are female. And none appear to portray individual likeness. Made from marble [then painted] – as opposed to terracotta or wood used for toys and dolls, they would have been highly prized.

The above suggests their owners considered them imbued with a magical, life-giving, life-protecting force symbolising fertility and longevity.

Their elemental simplicity and elegance. Their facial abstraction, spiritual presence and symbolic power. Their survival and continuing aura some four and a half thousand years after their making. All would have resonated with and inspired Modigliani.

 

 

 Cycladic goddess 2500 BC                       

Standing Female Figure                               

  

Whilst his pregnant standing sculpture with its folded arms reflects the spirit and certain features of Cycladic art, its statuesque form, distinctive, dreamlike head and noble bearing seem also a portrait of Akhmatova.

Is this sculpture – unique among Modigliani’s stone carvings – and the studies for it a supreme monument to his love and reverence for Akhmatova?

 

Provenance:

Dr Paul Alexandre, Paris [acquired from the artist].
Thence by descent to the present owner.

 

Reproduced:

Full page ‘The Unknown Modigliani’ by Noël Alexandre . 
Page 221 [no. 143], Mercatorfonds, 1993.

 

Exhibited:   

Drawings from The Collection of Paul Alexandre’ 

Palazzo Grassi, Venice, September 1993 - January 1994

The Ueno Royal Museum, Tokyo, 1994.
Centro d’Arte San Giovanni, Bruges, 1994.       

The Museum of Fine Art, Montreal, February - April 1996

The Museum of Fine Arts, Rouen, July - October 1996

 

 

 

 

Female Head   c. 1911  black crayon; 16 ¾ x 10 3/8 inches  42.7 x 26.4 cms                

 

  

 

Provenance:

Dr Paul Alexandre, Paris [acquired from the artist].
Thence by descent to the present owner.

 

Reproduced:

Full page ‘The Unknown Modigliani’ by Noël Alexandre . 
Page 278 [no. 229], Mercatorfonds, 1993.

 

Exhibited:   

Drawings from The Collection of Paul Alexandre’ 

Palazzo Grassi, Venice, September 1993 - January 1994

The Ueno Royal Museum, Tokyo, 1994.
Centro d’Arte San Giovanni, Bruges, 1994.       

The Museum of Fine Art, Montreal, February - April 1996

The Museum of Fine Arts, Rouen, July - October 1996

 

 

 

This drawing is directly related to the carved head below of circa 1911.

 

 

 

 

Also to these two 1911-12 Caryatid paintings.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The serenity, beauty and oval form of this enigmatic face express, as these five paintings show, a sublime quality Modigliani was to cherish throughout his short career; and portray in some of his most famous female subjects.

 

 

 

 

Elvira circa 1916-17                                          

Marie 1917-18                                                                           

 

 

 

 

Nu 1919                                                                      

 

 

 

     

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