Portrait of Dedie: Amedeo Modigliani

Portrait of Dedie: Amedeo Modigliani

Portrait of Dedie is a 1918 painting by Italian artist Amedeo Modigliani who was well known for his portraits in the early 20th century. This work is located in the Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris, France.

Amedeo Modigliani is known for a very specific trait, his elongated face, and neck in his portraits. The Portrait of Dedie also known as Odette Hayden is an example of this. An interesting detail is that her eyes are filled in here. Only on a few occasions, he had filled the eyes in. Another that has the eyes filled in is the portrait of the mother of his child, Jeanne Hébuterne, but even she at times had her portrait without pupils.

Modigliani’s inspiration was modern art which was heavily influenced by African Masks. In 1909, Modigiliani met Romanian artist, Constantin Branscu. Branscu recommended Modigiliani study African Masks. Modigliani made eight of these busts with elongated faces. Once he returned to painting, he incorporated this style into portraiture.

Modigliani was from a Sephardic Jewish family in Italy. His mother noticed his artistic personality at an early age and encouraged him to paint. She enrolled him with a painting teacher and brought him to see the Italian master’s in Florence. The influence of the Humanism of the Italian Renaissance would be in his portraits as he focused on the female nude and human face.

Later, he would move to Paris. There he recreated himself. Originally from a bourgeois family, he became a “Prince of the Vagabonds” and embraced a Bohemian lifestyle. He destroyed all of the work that he made as a student calling them, “Childish baubles, done when I was a dirty bourgeois”. He already had a drinking and drug problem but intensified after this.

Many amateur artists copied this behavior, hoping it could give them the same “genius” as him. Modigliani had many lovers who became subjects of his portraits. This Dedie may be one of them. While he also painted his colleagues such as Picasso, who he again painted with and without pupils. He died at thirty-five years old from tuberculosis meningitis. His wife and child died soon after from jumping out of a window.

Because of his early death, Modigliani became another tragic artistic figure like Van Gogh. He had only one exhibition when he was alive. His popularity reached soon after his death. During his time, many different avant-garde styles were emerging such as Cubism, Dadaism, Surrealism, Etc. Modigliani did not want to be associated with any style and to stay unique to his style.

Similarly, Jean Cocteau, a contemporary of Modigliani, said, “Don’t wait with the avant-garde”. The portrait of Dedie was made close to his time of death. His greatest work was made during this period from 1916 to 1919. It is possible if he had not died, he would reach recognition and produced even more masterful works. After the First World War, Avant-garde art became popular, and artists continued to experiment. It is a wonder what might have happened if the cure for the disease existed at the time.

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