Amedeo Modigliani was born in Livorno, Italy on July 12, 1884. His father was a wood and coal merchant, whose well-to-do parents had left Rome to settle in Livorno. His mother was Livornoese for three or more generations, and also of a wealthy merchant class.Both parents were Sephardic Jews. Amedeo was the fourth child, their last and was affectionately called Dedo by his family. He has a comfortable but sometimes awkward youth. Austerity and conformity reigned in his parent's home. The atmosphere became even more stern and repressive after his father's business failed in 1884. His father had to travel widely to make a decent living and his mother was forced to teach school. But his family prospered through diligence and austerity. At 17, young Amedeo had enough and left for Venice and art school. His only real problem was his delicate health.
Lung weakness was common in the family. He had multiple bouts with near fatal pleurisy growing up. He spent many year sheltered by a protective mother, and coddling sisters. In 1902, after a long recovery, he arrived in Venice and began his art studies. He left for Paris in 1905. There he immediately struck up a friendship with Picasso.
Among his close associates were Paul Guillaume,Beatrice Hastings, Juan Gris, Poet Max Jacob. Modigliani was never really influenced my any modernism, only primitivism effected both him, the cubists and young Brancusi. The simplicity of African masks applied to European portraiture. His freedom with drawing is impertinent at times in his eyebrow raising nudes. Punctuality of line is his hallmark. The classical chiarascuro of his native Italy is ever present in the many portraits he did in his all too short life. Everyone who knew him from the moment he arrived in Paris, agree on one point; until the middle of 1908, Modigliani's life in Paris had been peaceful and promising. Crowds of foreign artists were coming from Germany, central Europe, the United States, Russia, Scandinavia, particularly in 1906 and 1907, They were attracted by the glitter and the growing fame of the Fauvists. They held meetings at the cafe Dome in Montparnasse, and soon persuaded Matisse to open his academy. Modigliani already felt that he belonged to the movement and looked to the future with confidence. He has his own distinctive mode of dress...according to a friend Latourette," brown cordouroy, a brilliant scarf around his neck, and a broad felt hat!"
Something came over him in 1909. He was in desperate financial trouble and had to keep moving from one poor studio to another. he would be seen pushing a wheelbarrow through the street, moving his belongings to places of safety from a marauding landlord.. Late that year he returned to Livorno and the summer with his Mother. He needed the rest and nourishment she provided, having come into a sum of money. He returned to Paris , and worked closely with Constantin Brancusi. As there were not many collectors of sculpture, by 1913 he took a turn for the worse. His lifelong lung condition grew worse. He had to return often to his family to recuperate.
In the early month of 1914 Modigliani's life took a decisive turn. he quickened his pace, and limited himself to painting, having decided that he had learned all he needed to from sculpture. There now appeared on the scene a Pole named Leopold Zborowski, who had arrived in Paris as a student on the eve of World war I. He devoted himself to making Modigliani better known. He paid Modigliani 15 cents per day in exchange for his work. The artist accepted as his health was worsening and he was hungry. It was at the Zborowski home that Amedeo met young Jeanne Hebuterne, an aspiring artist. Actually, they met at a carnival attended by Leopold's friends in 1917. She bore him a son. Jeanne was everything he always wanted; innocence, grace, admiring trust.
At the urging of Zborowski, Amedeo opened a show on October 3, 1917 at the Berthe Weill Gallery on the Rue Lafitte. His first and only one man show, for which he assembled thirty two paintings and drawings. With the exception of the drawings, nothing was sold.Moreover, on the evening of the opening some paintings had to be taken down with the help of guests, as nudes had been adjudged by the police to be scandalous.Zborowski and family chipped in and sent them to Nice during the terrible winter of 1918. His health restored he an Jeanne return and she gives birth to a baby girl. Amadeo was thrilled. But soon he began his restlessness, moving his impoverished little family around from hotel to hotel. Jeanne left her little girl with a wet nurse in the Loiret. She found the courage to paint once in a while, using the ravaged face of her lover as model.In the Autumn of 1919 he began to be noticed and discussed and collected. But fame and love came too late for Amedeo Modigliani. Illness had long undermined him, his strength declined. He painted the people around him. Portraits with haunting eyes and gaunt cheeks; friendly fat faces, long lean lanky and bony faces, spindly and supple nudes. They take the breath away.
In the middle of January 1920, his friends found him as he lay dying in his studio on Rue de la Grande-Chaumiere, next to his despairing Jeanne. He did not complain, but showed a confidence, as though there was a reward for conferring mortality on his many friends and admirers. So he passed from the midst at 36 years of age.