Modigliani Unmasked at The Jewish Museum, through February 4, 2018

“They quickly became close friends: Dr. Paul Alexandre, the young French physician, enamored of art, and Amedeo Modigliani, the fledgling Italian Jewish artist, recently arrived in Paris. Between 1907 and the outbreak of World War I in 1914 they met almost daily. Despite his modest means, the doctor became Modigliani’s first patron and a passionate advocate for his work. As he began to build his collection of drawings and paintings, he implored the artist “not to destroy a single sketchbook or a single study.”

Alexandre was impressed by Modigliani’s knowledge and curiosity and by his enthusiasm for Modernist art, then in its first radical flowering. Painting was assailing the last vestiges of naturalism, so that what had been solid and familiar was finally yielding to something ambiguous and mutable, soon to culminate in outright abstraction. As the twenty-two-year-old artist absorbed this challenge to tradition, rejecting the notion that art must represent the natural world objectively, he began to treat his preferred motifs in a subjective manner. More pressing for him, however, were not natural but social realities, especially those relating to his own identity and place in the world.

The immense trove of drawings preserved by Paul Alexandre, more than four hundred made between 1906 and 1914, reveals much about this period, when the artist largely ceased to paint in order to develop his conceptual and pictorial ideas through drawing and sculpture. Seen within the scope of his brief fourteen-year career, this early work provides a context in which to reconsider what may have motivated Modigliani to develop his idiosyncratic style of portraiture.” — Introcuctory Wall Text by Mason Klein, Senior Curator

“Always speak out and keep forging ahead. The man who cannot find a new person within himself is not a man” —  Amedeo Modigliani

Amedeo Modigliani, c. 1912. Image provided by PVDE / Bridgeman Images, New York

Amedeo Modigliani. Table-Turning, or Portrait of a Medium, 1905-6. Black crayon and watercolor on paper,  19 1⁄4 × 14 3⁄4 in. (49 × 37.5 cm).  Paul Alexandre Family, courtesy of Richard Nathanson, London

Amedeo Modigliani. Paul Alexandre, c. 1909. China ink on paper, 10 5⁄8 × 8 1⁄4 in. (27 × 21 cm). Private collection, courtesy of Richard Nathanson, London

Amedeo Modigliani. Unfinished Portrait of Paul Alexandre, 1913. Oil on canvas, 31 1⁄2 × 25 3⁄4 in. (80 × 65.6 cm). Private collection on long-term loan to the Musée des Beaux-Arts, Rouen

Amedeo Modigliani. The Jewess, 1908. Oil on canvas,  21 5⁄8 × 18 1⁄8 in. (54.9 × 46 cm). Laure Denier Collection, Paul Alexandre Family, courtesy of Richard Nathanson, London

Amedeo Modigliani. Study for The Amazon, 1909. Black crayon on paper, 12 1⁄8 × 9 1⁄8 in. (30.8 × 23.2 cm). Paul Alexandre Family, courtesy of Richard Nathanson, London

Amedeo Modigliani. Female Nude with a Lighted Candle and Chandeliers, inspired by Anna Akhmatova, c. 1911. Black crayon on paper, 16 7⁄8 × 10 3⁄8 in. (42.9 × 26.4 cm).  Private collection, courtesy of Richard Nathanson, London

Amedeo Modigliani. Head with earrings, 1911-12. Black crayon on paper, 14 ⅛ × 10 ½ in. (36 × 26.7 cm). Paul Alexandre Family, courtesy of Richard Nathanson, London

Amedeo Modigliani. Woman in Profile, 1911-12. Charcoal and pastel on paper, 16 ⅞ × 10 ½ in. (42.9 × 26.7 cm). Museum of Modern Art, New York, The Joan and Lester Avnet Collection.

Amedeo Modigliani. Head, 1911-1913. Limestone, 28 ¼ x 7 ¼ x 8 ⅛ in. (71.8 x 18.4 x 20.6 cm). Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, Gift, Solomon R. Guggenheim, 55.1421

Amedeo Modigliani, Female Nude Lying on Her Left Side, c. 1909. Pencil and black crayon on paper, 11 x 16 7⁄8 in. (27.8 x 43 cm). Paul Alexandre Family, courtesy of Richard Nathanson, London

Amedeo Modigliani. Lola de Valence, 1915. Oil on paper, mounted on wood, 20 1/2 × 13 1/4 in. (52.1 × 33.7 cm). Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 67.187.84

Amedeo Modigliani. Lunia Czechowska, 1919. Oil on canvas,  31 1⁄2 × 20 1⁄2 in. (80 × 52 cm). Museu de Arte de São Paulo, Assis Chateaubriand

Amedeo Modigliani. Jeanne Hébuterne with Yellow Sweater, 1918-19. Oil on canvas, 39 3/8 x 25 1/2 in. (100 x 64.7cm). Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, By gift 37.533

Amedeo Modigliani. Male Caryatid, 1911-12. Black crayon on paper, 13 1⁄4 × 10 3⁄8 in. (33.8 × 26.5 cm). Paul Alexandre Family, courtesy of Richard Nathanson, London

Amedeo Modigliani. Kneeling Caryatid, 1911-12. Black crayon on paper, 16 7⁄8 × 10 3⁄8 in. (43 x 26.5 cm). Paul Alexandre Family, courtesy of Richard Nathanson, London

Amedeo Modigliani. Caryatid, c. 1911. Oil on canvas, 28 1/2 x 19 3/4 in. (72.5 x 50 cm). Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen, Dusseldorf

Amedeo Modigliani. Caryatid, 1914. Gouache and ink on paper, 22 3⁄4 × 18 1⁄2 in. (57.8 × 47 cm). Museum of Modern Art, New York. Bequest of Mrs. Harriet H. Jonas

Modigliani Unmasked is organized by Mason Klein, Senior Curator, The Jewish Museum. The exhibition was designed by Galia Solomonoff and Talene Montgomery of SAS/Solomonoff Architecture Studio.

Images courtesy The Jewish Museum.