Self Portrait
Museo de Arte, Sao Paulo
oil on canvas




Modigliani was born on July 12, 1884 to a Sephardic Jewish family living in reduced ciccumstances in Italy. He began his formal art training in 1898, and in 1902 and 1903 he studied in Florence and Venice. In 1906 he moved to Paris, with the help of a small allowance from his mother.
He first settled in Montmarte; along with his closest friends Soutine and Lipchitz, who were also expatriate artists. He immersed himself in cafe and night life, developing a dissolute life-style that enchanced his reputation as a bohemian but eventually ruined his life.
Modigliani worked as wildly as he had lived. Alcohol and hashish never diminished his great desire to work. Neither did the numerous affairs with all kinds of women. It seems his whole life was a series of protests: against the bourgeois smugness of his family of businessmen, against all that his art teacher Micheli represented, and against a society that failed to recognize and reward his talent.
Desperately poor, he scavenged stone from building sites around Paris. His sculpture, like his paintings emphasized elongated, simplified forms. He lost many of his works because he could not pay his rent and had to move a lot. He also never kept a record of his works.
As his health began to fail around 1914 he turned to painting almost exclusively. Leopold Zborowski became his exclusive representative and moved Modigliani to the south of France in early 1918. Paris had become too unstable because of the fighting during World War I. It was here that he met Jeanne Hebuterne who became his mistress.
By spring, they were back in Paris. Jeanne gave birth to a daughter in the fall and his works were beginning to sell. But, his health took a turn for the worse. He died on January 24, 1920, of tubercular meningitis. The following day Jeanne, nine months pregnant with her second child, threw herself from a window of her parents' home and died instantly.
Had the artist lived a few more years, he would have witnessed a growing interest in his work. In 1921 there was a memorial exhibition organized by Zborowski that received great acclaim. A foreign collector named Dr. Albert Barnes, in 1922 bought a large number of his works.

What remains of Modigliani seven decades after his death? First, there is the work, yet to be studied thoroughly, and second, the legend, now known to millions.