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January 24: Modigliani

Lawrence Bush
January 24, 2010

modigliani self-portrait-1919Painter and sculptor Amedeo Modigliani died on this day in 1920. Best known for painting elongated, nude women with impassive, mask-like faces, Modigliani was a drug and alcohol abuser who lived a starving artist’s life in Paris until dying from tuberculosis at age 36. He was born into a Sephardic family in Livorno, Italy and was drawn to the arts at a very young age; however, upon arriving in Paris in 1906, he destroyed almost all of his earlier work. The gendarmes were scandalized by his nudes and closed down the only solo exhibition of his life within a few hours of its opening at the Berthe Weill Gallery in 1917. That same year he met the love of his life, Jeanne Hebuterne, an artist who had a daughter with him and was nearly nine months pregnant when she committed suicide two days after Modigliani’s death.
What I am seeking is not the real and not the unreal but rather the unconscious, the mystery of the instinctive in the human race.” —Modigliani

​​​​Lawrence Bush edited Jewish Currents from 2003 until 2018. He is the author of Bessie: A Novel of Love and Revolution and Waiting for God: The Spiritual Explorations of a Reluctant Atheist, among other books. His new volume of illustrated Torah commentaries, American Torah Toons 2, is scheduled for publication this year.