Life and Work
1919 Zborovski arranges for several works by Modigliani to be shown in exhibitions in England. He is shown in Heale at the exhibition Modem French Painting, and in the Hill Gallery in London. English art collectors began to buy his paintings. At the end of May Modigliani returns to Paris. In July he signs a document promising marriage to Jeanne, who is pregnant again. He is shown at the autumn Salon. At the end of the year he becomes very ill with tuberculosis and a planned trip to Italy is cancelled.
On January 24 Modigliani dies in the Charite in Paris.
On the following day Jeanne Hebuterne commitssuicide.
There is a large crowd at their burial at the Pere Lachaise cemetery. The child Jeanne is adopted by Modigliani’s sister in Florence and later writes an important biography of her father. The first retrospective exhibition of Modigliani’s work takes place in the Montaigne Gallery.
Nothing But a Mute Affirmation of Life
Although the months at the end of the war were not easy, Zborovski was able to sell several pictures by Modigliani and arranged to have his work shown at an exhibition in London. At this time, Modigliani also received support from the Finish-born painter of Russian descent, Leopold Survage (1879-1968), who let him use his studio. It appears that contact with Paul Guillaume was reestablished in the South of France, for there is a photograph showing the rather dishevelled-looking Modigliani beside the elegantly dressed art dealer on the promenade in Nice. It is also reported that while in the South of France, Modigliani visited Auguste Renoir, who had a beautiful estate high up overlooking the sea. Whether or not this meeting between the doyen of Impressionism and Modigliani really ended in a clash – as reported by Renoir’s neighbour, the painter Osterlind (1887-1960) -is only conjecture. The story goes that the elderly Renoir gave the young painter advice, telling him that one must paint with the same joy with which one made love to a woman. “Before I paint” Renoir is supposed to have said, “I caress the buttocks for hours.” This elicited the response from Modigliani that he did not care for buttocks. He then left. As always, there is a kernel of truth in such legends insofar as this one marks out a fundamental difference between the Impressionist understanding of painting and that held by Modigliani. Renoir represents a style of painting which is derived from reality, is expressive and seeks to have a strong effect on the viewer. This was a style utterly rejected by Modigliani. The sensuality in Modigliani’s paintings is of a different nature. It is more spiritual, lyrical and composed, most clearly expressed in the Portraits of Jeanne Hebuterne that Modigliani painted at the end of his life.
A portrait of the art student Jeanne Hebuterne, whom Modigliani met in April 1917. She was the mother of his daughter, who was bom in Nice in 1918. Modigliani painted at least twenty-five portraits of Jeanne. The portraits executed in southern France are distinguished by their increasing use of colour.