Sunday, February 21, 2010

Picasso in Paris

Pablo Ruiz Picasso (25 October 1881 – 8 April 1973)  was born in Spain but he lived most of his life in France.  The two backgrounds blend into making what Picasso became.  I can't imagine that he would have developed his style in quite the same way if he had not moved to France.  There is the Spanish passion that Picasso brings to the light and color of France which combine to make such a dynamic statement.   

For whatever reason I felt I was with Picasso in Montmarte in his bleak artistic garret.  He lived the classic artist's life in the early years.  When he started out in Paris, Picasso was very poor.  At one point he shared a studio with the poet, Max Jacob.  The apartment was so tiny that only one could sleep there at a time.  One worked by day and one by night.  They were so poor, they even shared a hat!

Next he lived with a mistress in a damp, dirty, and dilapidated apartment at 13, rue Ravignan in Montmartre at the Bateau Lavoire.  He was a young and promising artist and in 1905-6, he painted the portrait of Gertrude Stein in his tiny, unheated broken down, studio.  Gertrude Stein was a wealthy American who had many art buyers in her circle of friends.  She also hosted parties for artists.  Through this connection and others like her Picasso became well known in Paris.

In time Picasso became very wealthy.  At one point he filled his house up with paintings and junk.  Since Picasso never threw anything away, he simply locked the doors, walked away and found another house to live in.  He didn't like people to move things or clean his house so he lived with the trash and junk he kept around him even when he lived in mansions.

There are books on the many women in Picasso's life.  He had a long string of lovers and many artist friends.  He was dynamic, forceful and very appealing.  After he became successful he had a circle of associates that surrounded him.  He was like a rock star before there were rock stars!
Picasso in Paris

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Great Italian Lover, Amedeo Modigliani

Amedeo Modigliani (1884-1920), charming, handsome and irresistible to women, was an Italian artist living in Paris in Montparnasse during his artistic years.  He spent much of his early career as a sculptor.  Living in deep poverty, he stole the stone he used from building sites in Paris. 
Modigliani was drawn the bohemian life which drew him to the drugs and seedier side of life. Through his studies he developed the philosophy that creativity was enhanced by disorder and rebellion.  The drugs, alcohol and illness sapped the strength from Modigliani and eventually he gave up carving in stone for the physically easier occupation of painting portraits.  Yet, one can see the depth of form in his paintings that came from his 3-D work.
Modigliani and Picasso were friends and rivals in Paris.  It seems that both artists reflect an influence of each other by painting in a cubistic style that for a time shares characteristics.  Picasso owned several of Modigliani's paintings.  However, he seemed to feel that Modigliani was exaggerating behaviors to enhance his image.  At one point he commented, 'It's odd but you never see Modigliani drunk anywhere but at the corners of the boulevard Montmartre and the boulevard Raspail.'
Modigliani produced great quantities of work which lends credibility to Picasso's comment.  I don't think it's possible to create as many works of art as Amedeo did and drink all the time. 
In the early years of WWI Modigliani became involved with South African writer Beatrice Hastings. She was somewhat successful and was able to provide a living for Modigliani. Even so, the relationship did not go well. It was marred by excessive drinking and abuse. At one point Modigliani threw Beatrice out a window.
He had numerous love affairs but most did not last long.  However, these affairs did produce beautiful paintings that have in time made Modigliani a famous Modern Art Master and added to his image as a Great Latin Lover.

Amedeo Modigliani

Friday, February 5, 2010

Amedeo Modigliani, The Great Latin Lover Part II

When I was 19 I first saw some of the many paintings of female nudes by the famous Modern Art Master, Amedeo Modigliani, in Chicago. At that time I knew very little about the artist but I was struck by how sensual and lush his paintings were. He paints the female model as if he were the lover.
Later I found out.  Indeed, he was!  Amedeo Modigliani, an Italian artist living in Paris, was wildly handsome and had no problem attracting the women who flocked to him, posed for him and were discared for the next edition.
It was in 1917 that he met the beautiful 19 year old Jeanne. They fell in love but her parents were opposed to their daughter's involvement with Modigliani. For good reason. They saw him as a druken derelict which is what he had become in his years in Paris. Addicted not only to alcohol but also narcotics, Modigliani was not the perfect companion for their lovely daughter.  One eye-witness, André Salmon, reports:
"He was dragging her along by an arm, gripping her frail wrist, tugging at one or another of her long braids of hair, and only letting go of her for a moment to send her crashing against the railings of the Luxembourg. He was like a madman, crazy with savage hatred."

In 1920 the story ends. Modigliani, the great Italian lover and artist, died at the age of 35 of tubercular meningitis. Shortly after that his young, beautiful and nine months pregnant girlfriend threw herself from a window. Both the mother and baby died.
There was another baby daughter who was born in 1918, she survived the death of her parents and went on to research and preserve the history of her parents.  From Modigliani's life and death a legend was created.  It seems there is a current movie that has been released on his life.

Jeanne Hébuterne