Amedeo Modigliani: "Happiness is an angel with a serious face"


Amedeo Clemente Modigliani, one of the most popular artists of the 20th century, was born on July 12, 1884 into the family of Flaminio and Eugenia Modigliani, in Livorno (Leghorn), Tuscany. He was the forth and the youngest child in the family, which belonged to the secularized Jewish bourgeoisie. By the time Amedeo was born, the family business was in down, to go bankrupt some years later. Eugenia Modigliani, Amedeo’s mother, came from France. To contribute to the family income she gave private lessons and made translations. It was she who liked to create myths around the family and encouraged this trait in her younger son.
The attack of typhoid in 1898 was a turning point in Modigliani’s life. After recovering he was allowed to drop school and start to take lessons in drawing and painting at the Art Academy in Livorno. By 1900, his health condition aggravated, he contracted tuberculosis and spent the winter of 1900/01 in Naples, on Capri and in Rome. In 1902, Modigliani enrolled in the Scuola libera di Nudo (Free School of Nude Studies) in Florence. He visited Florence’s museums and churches and studied the art of the Renaissance, which he learned to admire. A year later Modigliani moved to Venice, where he enrolled in the Instituto di Belle Arti di Venezia and continued the self-study of old masters. It is in Venice that he first tried hashish. Two years later Modigliani went to Paris. He took life-drawing classes at the Académie Colarossi and befriended many colleagues from all over the world. Despite his poor health, he participated in the debauched life of the artists on Montmartre. The German painter Ludwig Meidner described him in the following way, “Our Modigliani, or ‘Modi’ as he was called – was a characteristic and, at the same time, highly talented representative of Bohemian Montmartre; he was probably even its last true Bohemian”.