“The function of art is to struggle against obligation.” ~Amedeo Modigliani

Amedeo Modigliani (pronunciation) was an Italian painter and sculptor who is known for his unique, elongated style of portrait painting.


Modigliani was born in Livorno, Italy (pronunciation) on July 12, 1884. His mother, Eugenia Garsinii (pronunciation), was a French Jew who had moved to Italy with her family. His father, Flaminio Modigliani, was a successful Italian Jewish businessman. Amedeo had two sisters, Beatrice and Jeanne.

Amedeo Modigliani self portrait

Amedeo showed an early interest in art and began taking private drawing lessons when he was eleven years old. His youth was spent between Italy and France. In 1902, he enrolled at the Accademia di Belle Arti (pronunciation)  in Florence where he studied under Giovanni Fattori and Ricardo Domenici. 

Boy in Short Pants

In 1906 he moved to Paris, becoming friends with Pablo Picasso, Juan Gris, and other artists of the time. He also had a brief career as an art dealer there and organized an exhibition of Paul Cézanne’s work in 1907. It was during this time that he became interested in African art and began to collect pieces characterized by elongated figures and mask-like faces. This was influential in developing his own unique style.

Cagnes Landscape

Modigliani returned to Italy in 1909. He was drafted into the Italian army, but he did not serve due to medical reasons. He continued to paint and sculpt, and by 1911 his work was being shown in Paris. His first solo exhibition was held in 1912 at the Berthe Weill Gallery (pronunciation).

Modigliani’s work was not well received by the critics, but he gained a following among other artists and collectors. He became friends with Guillaume Apollinaire (pronunciation), who championed his work.

Jeanne Hébuterne with Hat and Necklace

In 1918, Modigliani met Jeanne Hébuterne (pronunciation), a young art student who became his muse. The two had a daughter, Jeanne, in 1919. His painting style became more simplified and he also began to experiment with sculpture.

Modigliani’s health began to decline in the early 1920s, he struggled with alcohol addiction and poverty. He was diagnosed with tubercular meningitis, and died from it on January 24, 1920 at the age of 35.

Portrait of Jeanne Hébuterne

Despite his short career, Modigliani had a profound impact on the art world. His unique style of surreal elongation of faces, necks, and figures  were not received well during his lifetime, but today, his art is highly recognizable and has become much sought after by collectors. 

Woman with Red Hair

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