This exhibition puts a spotlight on Modigliani’s drawings, with a large selection acquired directly from the artist by Dr. Paul Alexandre, his close friend and first patron. The drawings from the Alexandre collection, many being shown for the first time in the United States, as well as other drawings from collections around the world and a selection of Modigliani’s paintings and sculptures, illuminate how the artist’s heritage as an Italian Sephardic Jew is pivotal to understanding his artistic output.
Modigliani Unmasked considers the celebrated artist, Amedeo Modigliani (Italian, 1884-1920), shortly after he arrived in Paris in 1906 when the city was still roiling with anti-Semitism after the long-running tumult of the Dreyfus Affair and the influx of foreign emigres.
An Italian Sephardic Jew with a French mother and a classical education, Modigliani was the embodiment of cultural heterogeneity. When he moved to Paris, he came up against the idea of racial purity in French culture – in Italy, he did not feel ostracized for being Jewish. His Latin looks and fluency in French could have easily helped him to assimilate. Instead, his outsider status often compelled him to introduce himself with the words, “My name is Modigliani. I am Jewish.” As a form of protest, he refused to assimilate, declaring himself as “other.” The exhibition shows that Modigliani’s art cannot be fully understood without acknowledging the ways the artist responded to the social realities that
The exhibition shows that Modigliani’s art cannot be fully understood without acknowledging the ways the artist responded to the social realities that he confronted in the unprecedented artistic melting pot of Paris.
Modigliani Unmasked is arranged thematically and includes approximately 130 drawings, 12 paintings, and seven sculptures by the artist. Modigliani’s art is complemented by work representative of the various multicultural influences – African, Asian, Greek, Egyptian, and Khmer – that inspired the young artist during this lesser-known, early period.