WASHINGTON, D.C.- Modigliani: Beyond the Myth, the most comprehensive American exhibition of the artists work in over 50 years, will be on view at The Phillips Collection February 26 through May 29, 2005. The exhibition will re-examine the art and life of Italian painter and sculptor Amedeo Modigliani (18841920). Too often the drama of Modiglianis life as a legendary bohemian artist has overshadowed his art. The exhibition will offer new insight into his works meaning and sources. The Phillips Collection is the final destination for this acclaimed exhibition, featuring nearly 100 works, including 25 works exclusive to the D.C. presentation.
The Phillips Collection is gratified to collaborate with The Jewish Museum in bringing this exhibition to our newly renovated Goh galleries, said Jay Gates, director of The Phillips Collection. As the only other U.S. venue for this show, we are pleased to give residents of and visitors to the Nations Capital a last chance to see this beautiful body of work and reflect upon the cultural and intellectual heritage that profoundly informed Modiglianis art.
Organized by The Jewish Museum in New York and made possible by the Jerome L. Greene Foundation, the exhibition was granted an indemnity by the Federal Council on the Arts and Humanities. Support for the exhibitions presentation at the Phillips was provided by Trish and George Vradenburg and the Vradenburg Foundation. Additional funding came from the Zickler Family Foundation and Mr. and Mrs. Thomas D. Rutherfoord, Jr. Modigliani: Beyond the Myth presents paintings, sculptures, and drawings on loan from collections in the United States, Canada, Europe, South America, and Australia. The exhibition will show Modiglianis contribution to European modernism and 20th-century portraiture, and the role of his Italian-Jewish Amedeo Modigliani heritage in the development of his innovative style, which synthesized a variety of historical models from Egypt, Africa, Asia, and classical antiquity. The inclusion of over 40 works on paper, including 16 loaned exclusively to the Phillips, highlights the role drawing played in Modiglianis stylistic development and daily life. A prolific draughtsman, Modigliani used drawing to investigate his formal concerns. The drawings reveal the artists creative process and provide vital links to the evolution of his portraiture and stylized nudes, noted Eliza Rathbone, chief curator at The Phillips Collection. They show that his portraits and nudes, so often viewed as anonymous in their abstraction, are dynamic attempts to forge a universal language of art that allows for individual traits. The exhibition will illuminate the compassion the artist felt for humanity as expressed in his work.
The Modigliani: Beyond the Myth exhibition curator is Mason Klein, associate curator at The Jewish Museum. Both Chief Curator Rathbone and Associate Curator Elsa Smithgall coordinated the exhibition at The Phillips Collection.
Known primarily for his paintings of reclining nudes and portraits with elegantly elongated features, Modigliani was an anomaly among artists, including a number of foreign-born Jews, active in the Parisian avant-garde in the early 20th century. He remained fiercely independent of the eras many artistic movements, creating a visual language uniquely his own. At the same time, his way of life and premature death in poverty cast him as the embodiment of the stereotypical artist in pre-World War I Paris. When Modigliani died of tuberculosis in 1920 at the age of 35, he became the archetype of the bohemian artist the unappreciated artist-genius consoled by wine and drugs. This celebrated myth is based on details of the artists life his volatile personality, extreme poverty, chronic ill health, and the suicide of his 21-year-old pregnant lover, Jeanne Hébuterne, the day after his death. The sensational aspects of his life frequently have overshadowed his work and obscured the ideas and cultural traditions that give his work its many meanings, making one of the best-known early modernists one of the most misunderstood.
Modigliani was proud of his Italian and Sephardic roots, his intellectual upbringing, and the liberal social and political ideals espoused by his family who claimed descent from the 17th-century Dutch universalist philosopher Baruch Spinoza. The Italian-Jewish population of Livorno, where Modigliani grew up, was steeped in liberal ideals and integrated into Italian society. Unlike other European cities, there was no Jewish ghetto. Modigliani first encountered anti-Semitism when he came to Paris in 1906. Living among expatriate artists in Montparnasse and Montmartre, Modigliani confronted a society far less tolerant than that of his hometown. However, unlike fellow Jewish émigrés like Marc Chagall and Chaim Soutine, who were identified as Jewish rather than by nationality, Modigliani, lacking an Eastern European accent, was perceived as Italian or Western European. His fluency in French further concealed his ethnicity and led him to deliberately call attention to his own Jewishness, often introducing himself as: I am Modigliani, Jew.
Though Modigliani has been cast as a stereotype, as an artist he refused to align himself with any single art movement or manifesto, unlike other members of the School of Paris, such as Chagall or Soutine, who worked within the established currents of cubism and expressionism. While he was a great admirer of Toulouse-Lautrec, Picasso, Brancusi, and especially Cézanne, Modiglianis style was an expression of his own unique modern vision, which synthesized diverse influences from the art of many cultures and ages. Modigliani: Beyond the Myth also examines the artists singular preoccupation with portraiture in relationship to his unusual social and religious history. A close study of Modiglianis lesser-known works reveals spiritual and philosophical concerns as well, from his reworking and distilling of forms in his caryatid drawings and sculpted heads, to his drawings of praying figures and incorporation of Catholic, Jewish, and esoteric symbolism.
MODIGLIANI AT THE PHILLIPS COLLECTION - The exhibition at The Phillips Collection will be presented chronologically, highlighting the artists development and showing the continuous interplay between his work in various media as a draughtsman, painter, and sculptor. Installed in the newly renovated Goh galleries with open vistas from one room to another, the exhibition will allow viewers to compare works across time and in different media. Modiglianis drawings of caryatids, his crouching female support figures, will be given a special focus with an entire gallery devoted exclusively to their display. Modigliani envisioned these drawings as sketches for sculptures to be realized as part of a larger program of columns to frame a Temple of Beauty. His preoccupation with the series, sketching them constantly over a five-year period, resulted in hundreds of variations on the theme. By securing additional works that represent the range of invention within this series, the Phillips will provide a thorough view of the role these works played in Modiglianis stylistic development. Among the works unique to the Phillips presentation are Caryatid, Hands Behind Her Head, 1911 (Galerie Cazeau-Béraudière, Paris), Caryatid 191314 (The Art Institute of Chicago), Rose Caryatid, 1914 (Norton Museum of Art), and Caryatid, 191415 (Philadelphia Museum of Art).
Modigliani: Beyond the Myth will also display the breadth and variety of Modiglianis portraits, including those of artists, writers, and poets of the avant-garde, his lovers, Jeanne Hébuterne and Beatrice Hastings, as well as dealers, friends, children, and ordinary p