Amedeo Clemente Modigliani was an Italian painter and sculptor who worked mainly in France. He is known for portraits and nudes in a modern style characterized by elongation of faces and figures, that were not received well during his lifetime, but later found acceptance. Modigliani spent his youth in Italy, where he studied the art of antiquity and the Renaissance, until he moved to Paris in 1906. There he came into contact with prominent artists such as Pablo Picasso and Constantin Brâncuşi.
Modigliani was born into a Sephardic Jewish family in Livorno, Italy. A port city, Livorno had long served as a refuge for those persecuted for their religion, and was home to a large Jewish
community. His maternal great-great-grandfather, Solomon Garsin, had immigrated to Livorno in the 18th century as a refugee.
Modigliani's mother (Eugénie Garsin), who was born and grew up in Marseille, was descended from an intellectual, scholarly family of Sephardic descent, generations of whom had resided along the Mediterranean coastline. Her ancestors were learned
people, fluent in many languages, known authorities on sacred Jewish texts, and founders of a school of Talmudic studies. Family legend traced the Garsins' lineage to the 17th-century
Dutch philosopher Baruch Spinoza. The family business was believed to be a credit agency with branches in Livorno, Marseille, Tunis, and London. Their financial fortunes
ebbed and flowed.
Modigliani’s father, Flaminio, hailed from a family of successful businessmen and entrepreneurs.
In the spring of 1917, the Russian sculptor Chana Orloff introduced him to a beautiful 19-year-old art student named Jeanne Hébuterne who had posed for Tsuguharu Foujita. From a conservative bourgeois background, Hébuterne was renounced by her devout Roman Catholic family for her liaison with Modigliani, whom they saw as little more than a debauched derelict. Despite her family's objections, soon they were living together.
Modigliani ended his relationship with the English poet and art critic Beatrice Hastings and a short time later Hebuterne and Modigliani moved together into a studio on the Rue de la Grande Chaumière. Jeanne began to pose for him and appears in several of his paintings. Jeanne Hébuterne became a principal subject for Modigliani's art.
On December 3, 1917, Modigliani's first one-man exhibition opened at the Berthe Weill Gallery in Paris. The chief of the Paris police was scandalized by Modigliani's nudes and forced him to close the exhibition within a few hours after its opening.
Towards the end of the First World War, early in 1918, Modigliani left Paris with Hébuterne to escape from the war and travelled to Nice and Cagnes-sur-Mer. They would spend a year in France. During that time they had a busy social life with many friends, including Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Pablo Picasso, Giorgio de Chirico and André Derain. After he and Hébuterne moved to Nice on November 29, 1918, she gave birth to a daughter whom they namedJeanne (1918–1984). In May 1919 they returned to Paris with their infant daughter and moved into an apartment on the rue de la Grande Chaumière.
Hébuterne became pregnant again. Modigliani then got engaged to her, but Jeanne's parents were against the marriage, especially because of Modigliani's reputation as an alcoholic and drug user. However, Modigliani officially recognized her daughter as his child. The wedding plans were shattered independently of Jeanne's parents' resistance when Modigliani discovered he had a severe form of tuberculosis.
Although he continued to paint, Modigliani's health deteriorated rapidly, and his alcohol-induced blackouts became more frequent.
In 1920, after not hearing from him for several days, a neighbour checked on the family and found Modigliani in bed delirious and holding onto Hébuterne. A doctor was summoned, but little could be done because Modigliani was in the final stage of his disease, dying of tubercular meningitis. He died on January 24, 1920, at the Hôpital de la Charité.
There was an enormous funeral, attended by many from the artistic communities in Montmartre and Montparnasse. When Modigliani died, twenty-one-year-old Hébuterne was eight months pregnant with their second child.
day later, Hébuterne was taken to her parents' home. There, inconsolable, she threw herself out of a fifth-floor window, a day after Modigliani's death, killing herself and her unborn child. Modigliani was interred in Père Lachaise Cemetery. Hébuterne was buried at the Cimetière
de Bagneux near Paris, and it was not until 1930 that her embittered family allowed her body to be moved to rest beside Modigliani. A single tombstone honors them both. His epitaph
reads: "Struck down by Death at the moment of glory". Hers reads: "Devoted companion to the extreme sacrifice".
Managing only one solo exhibition in his life and giving his work away in exchange for meals in restaurants, Modigliani died destitute.