26 November 2010

The Last Muse: Amedeo Modigliani, Jeanne Hébuterne, and Jeanne Modigliani


Jeanne Hébuterne (1898 -1920) is best remembered as the muse and common-law wife of Italian artist Amedeo Modigliani (1884 -1920) whose portrait she painted. Born in Paris she was introduced to the artistic community by her brother. It was while she was pursuing her own artistic studies that she met Modigliani. Against her bourgeois Roman Catholic family's wishes she fell in love with the poor Jewish artist and moved in with him. Hébuterne became the principle model for Modigliani's figurative paintings and bore him a daughter named Jeanne. The brilliant artist combined his knowledge of classical European painting with the influence of non-Western tribal art to create his elegant, reflective portraits. In contrast life with Modigliani was chaotic and challenging; he was alcoholic, drug addicted and temperamental. Suffering from tuberculosis he chose “a brief but intense life”. At the age of thirty-five he lay dying in a squalid bed surrounded by empty wine bottles and open sardine tins. Modigliani was taken to a Paris charity hospital where he died. Two days later Hébuterne, twenty-one and pregnant with their second child, jumped to her death from a fifth floor window. Their daughter, Jeanne Modigliani (1918 -1984) was raised by her paternal aunt and would go on to become an art scholar and write the biography of her father, Modigliani, Man and Myth. She was photographed in front of a photo of her father by LIFE Magazine photographer Ralph Crane.

8 comments:

  1. As a young teenager, I bought a reproduction of Modigliani's drawing of Hebuterne for my bedroom wall. I had no idea of their tragic story
    and was riveted by this dramatic but touching post. Thank you. Perhaps not intentional, but look at the pain in their daughter's eyes.

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  2. Thank you Rose, I'm always struck by how the art we enjoy as teenagers resurfaces in our tastes as adults. I was unaware of their tragic story also until I found the haunting photo of Hébuterne. She apparently was a very promising artist herself who lived "a brief but intense life". Best, Kendraa

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  3. Genius and madness not that far apart. I had no idea of the great sadness behind this artist. Again P&P thank you for jump-starting my brain this morning. I'll have to look into the daughter's book.

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  4. Thank you HBD, I now see Modigliani's art with new eyes knowing this story. I hope you had a lovely holiday weekend. Best, Kendra

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  5. It does seem those who meet fate in the form of art and love, and passion-all those intertwined do not ever mix well for the captives. The artist always seems to fare better- regardless of their brief life. So many women are attracted to that genius and-become addicted- to their undoing.

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  6. PGT, I think many women, myself included become attracted to someone who is passionate enough to pursue their art rather than take the risk to pursue their own. Best, Kendra

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  7. Modigliani's intensity certainly comes through in his art, and it must have been fueled by Jeanne's passion for him.

    It is heartbreaking that so many brilliant artists, composers and writers led such tragic lives. Creating art can become so all-consuming and challenging on a daily basis that it often is hard to stay sane and have healthy relationships.

    To balance.....

    Cheers,

    Claudia

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  8. Woke up this morning with "mogdiani" in my head. Found the correct spelling and this moving story. I'm still left pondering why Mogdigliani but will make the connection later I'm sure. How beautiful they both were. They live forever and so we can connect directly to them and they to us. Wonderful. Thank you.

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