Redheaded Girl in Evening Dress 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 at the Barnes Foundation in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
Analysis of Redheaded Girl in Evening Dress
The artist, Modigliani
Amedeo Modigliani was an Italian-Jewish artist, who would later move to Paris. In his early days, he was devoted to the Italian Renaissance artists but later, he rejected this style. As a child, his mother supported his love for art by taking him to other Italian cities to see Renaissance art. Despite coming from a family of merchants, he gave up his bourgeois background and pursued a bohemian lifestyle.
His whole life he had suffered from many different sicknesses which he medicated with drugs and alcohol. During that time, there was a stigma for those who had tuberculosis usually pitied and avoided. He is hedonism could have been a way to mask his growing physical weakness. He is most known for his painting with elongated faces and pupilless eyes. His faces were inspired by African masks which the artist, Constantin Brancusi, recommended he study. Modigliani started with these faces in sculpture which he then moved to the medium of painting.
A good example is Red-Headed Girl in an Evening Dress. This painting shows a woman with such a face, though she does have black pupils in her blue eyes. Modigliani stated that “the eyes is the window to the soul”. A theory is that once he knew the model’s soul, he would paint the pupils. So this may be why, she has pupils. He illustrates the makeup on her face by showing the black liner and red lips. Her red hair contrasts with the blue background. She is wearing a very low-cut black evening dress.
Her posture is very casual, not that of a “proper” lady. Her arm lays on the back of her seat. The model is unknown. Modigliani’s models were usually lovers and these women were also living a bohemian lifestyle. It was painted in 1918 before short hair and freeing clothing were popularized. Gold and red tones were used on her skin to have her stand out from the background.
This painting is painted near the end of his life as he died an early death from his chronic sickness. His lover and muse, who was pregnant with his child took her life soon after. This period close to his death is when he painted his greatest works. He never had mainstream recognition while he was alive. It is believed if he had lived, he would eventually have become a big name in art. When he was alive, insiders of the avant-garde Paris community only knew of him. He only had one exhibition that was shut down for indecency by his paintings. Despite his short and turbulent life, he was able to paint great paintings. He is now a well-known artist and his legacy influences art today. Perhaps, we should learn not to stigmatize the sick as he would not have died so soon if he was able to take care of himself rather than hiding his sickness.