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Amedeo Modigliani

1884 - 1920



Study for Standing Nude Sculpture c.1911



Black crayon; 42.9 x 26.7 cms;  stamped with the Paul Alexandre collection mark.


Provenance:  Dr Paul Alexandre, Paris, who acquired it directly from Modigliani.

                         By descent to the present owner.


Reproduced: The Unknown Modigliani, by Noël Alexandre [the youngest son of Paul Alexandre]

                        Page 223 [no. 146], Fonds Mercator, 1993.




The above major monograph on Modigliani’s pre-1914 drawings is dedicated by Noël Alexandre:

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




This drawing is one of the two frontal studies reproduced in the Noël Alexandre’s monograph, which are closest to Modigliani’s only full length [approximately 1.62 metres high] standing stone sculpture in the Australian National Gallery, Canberra [see below].







In drawing the black strokes so richly and powerfully around the figure, in contrast to its more delicately delineated features, it seems as though Modigliani is carving the already visualised complete figure with his crayon, willing it to emerge from the space within.


The sculpture is Modigliani’s supreme monument to the Russian poet Anna Akhmatova. It celebrates her statuesque beauty and elongated, mysteriously beautiful head with its mass of hair – eulogised also in his fifteen limestone heads and numerous drawings of her.


Anna Akhmatova [1889-1966] is considered, with Boris Pasternak and Osip Mandelstam, the greatest Russian poet of the twentieth century. She met Modigliani in 1910 during her first visit to Paris, on honeymoon with her husband. They corresponded throughout the winter; and she returned alone in early 1911 when they became very close.


Akhmatova’s poetic genius; charismatic beauty and tall, sensual body struck an immediate, seismic chord with Modigliani; and influenced the course of his art at a critical moment in his development.


Anna Akhmatova:

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. We would jointly recite Verlaine, whom we knew by heart, and we were glad we shared the same interests….

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….


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 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.


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.


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.’





 Venus de Milo







Evident in both the National Gallery of Australia sculpture and this drawing is the elemental simplicity, mysterious stillness and quiet power of Cycladic figures, exemplified in the one above. Their continuing spell, some four thousand years after their creation, would have profoundly moved and inspired Modigliani.


Present also is the mesmerising aura, from the grave, of ancient Egyptian goddesses and princesses. The majestic purity of Greek sculpture. And nobility of Roman art. Modigliani would, in Italy and Paris, have avidly studied each of the above three pieces.


As Modigliani’s magnificent, heroically carved, loving tribute to Akhmatova testifies, his obsessive quest to portray, in the most sublime, beautiful and inwardly powerful way he was able The mystery of what is instinctive in the human race *, crystallised and found unique artistic expression through Akhmatova’s poignant beauty, sensual, elongated form and mystical presence.


*In a 1907 sketchbook Modigliani wrote his credo:


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.





Exhibited:       Modigliani Drawings from The Collection of Paul Alexandre at;


                         Venice,     Palazzo Grassi, September 1993January 1994.

                         Bruges, Centro D’Arte, San Giovanni, 1994.

                                       Tokyo, Ueno Royal Museum, October – December 1994.

                         Montréal,  Museum of Fine Art, February – April 1996.

                         Rouen,      Musée des Beaux Arts, July – October 1996.




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