In a triumph, Modigliani’s work together in one place

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In a triumph, Modigliani’s work together in one place

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“Reclining Nude with Loose Hair” (1917), on loan from the Osaka City Museum of Modern Art in Japan. Provided by the organizer

Amedeo Modigliani (1884-1920) is an artist popular not only among Western collectors but also among Korean readers, as his portraits frequently appear on book covers, in particular, for lyrical literature.

The Italian-born artist’s portraits are characterized by blank stares and long necks, which can be associated with a line in a famous Korean poem, “Deer,” that reads, “That long neck of yours makes you a sad creature.”

Some of these portraits are now on display in southern Seoul. A rare retrospective of Modigliani is going on at the Hangaram Art Museum at the Seoul Arts Center until Oct. 4. The exhibition features 70 pieces, both oil paintings and drawings.

“The number of Modigliani’s works is small compared to other artists - the number of oil paintings are fewer than 400 pieces - as he died at the age of 35,” said Seo Soun-jou, director of the exhibition. “In addition, his works are scattered in museums and private collections all around the world. So, it has been a great challenge to gather as many of them as possible in one place. We’ve finally made it.”

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“Caryatid Rose” (1913-14), above, on loan from a private collector, are part of the Amedeo Modigliani retrospective in Seoul.Provided by the organizer

The exhibition titled “Amedeo Modiglini, Legend of Montparnasse” is divided into six sections: “Portraits of Men,” “Caryatids,” “Portraits of Women,” “Nudes,” “Works on Paper” and “Modigliani and Moise Kisling.”

The last section features collaborations from the two artists who were dubbed along with some others “L’Ecole de Paris” (the School of Paris). They were active in Paris, in particular the Montparnasse area, but did not belong to any specific movement such as Cubism or Fauvism.

As to why Modigliani’s portrait subjects do not have pupils in their eyes, Seo quoted the artist as saying, “When I know your soul, I will paint your eyes.”

He added that Modigliani tried to visualize the undefinable unconscious of the models.

He also quoted the artist as saying, “What I am searching for is neither the real nor the unreal, but the Subconscious, the mystery of what is Instinctive in the human Race.”

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Modigliani’s 1918 portrait of Jeanne Hebuterne, his last lover who killed herself two days after his death, is also part of the exhibition. It’s on loan from the Israel Museum in Jerusalem.

One corner of “Portraits of Women” is dedicated to Jeanne Hebuterne, Modigliani’s last and devoted, beautiful lover. Two days after Modigliani died of tuberculosis, 21-year-old Jeanne, alone and pregnant, jumped to her death from a fifth-floor window.

For those who are already familiar with Modigliani’s portraits and the tragic love story, which perhaps contributed to the artist’s posthumous fame, the “Caryatids” section might be more interesting. Caryatids are sculpted female figures that serve as columns in ancient Greek architecture. The section features Modigliani’s studies and drawings of the sculptures.

“Modigliani had great talent in sculpture and left a few sculptural works,” Seo said. “But he had to give up due to his weak constitution and poverty.”

BY MOON SO-YOUNG [symoon@joongang.co.kr]



The exhibition runs through Oct. 4. Admission is 15,000 won ($13) for adults. Hours are from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. The closing is extended to 10 p.m. on Saturday. The museum is closed on July 27 and Aug. 24. Go to Nambu Bus Terminal Station, line No. 3, exit No. 5, and walk for five minutes. For details, call 1588-2618 or visit www.modigliani.co.kr.


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