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Picasso: The Artist and His Models—Amedeo Modigliani

January 9, 2017

Amedeo Modigliani (Italian, 1884–1920). La Jeune bonne (The Servant Girl), ca. 1918. Oil on canvas, 60 x 24 inches (152.4 x 61 cm). Collection Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo, New York; Room of Contemporary Art Fund, 1939 (RCA1939:6).

Throughout his lifetime, Pablo Picasso moved in and out of many social circles. His closest friends included some of the greatest creative minds of the early twentieth century. Many of the works in Picasso: The Artist and His Models highlight how the artist’s personal relationships not only influenced his compositions but also helped steer the ever-changing course of his career.

When Amedeo Modigliani arrived in Paris in 1906 he almost immediately crossed paths with Pablo Picasso. The two shared an interest in African art and came to know each well, often trading works. Yet, they eventually drifted apart, riven by a romantic rivalry and Picasso’s disapproval of Modigliani’s drug use and habitual taste for absinthe. Between 1915 and 1920, Modigliani executed many portraits, including Picasso’s, in a style characterized by sparse settings and figures rendered with elongated bodies, oval heads, and seemingly blank eyes. The subject of this painting is said to be Marie Feret, a country girl from the south of France, and everything about the composition underscores a servant’s role—from her clothing to diminutive stance. However, there is a certain dignity to the figure, which Modigliani achieved through the use of color and line to unify the composition.