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Modigliani: A Lifeby Meryle Secrest
Synopses & Reviews
People like us . . . have different rights, different values than do ordinary people because we have different needs which put us . . . above their moral standards.-Modigliani
Amedeo (Beloved of God) Modigliani was considered to be the quintessential bohemian artist, his legend almost as infamous as Van Gogh's. InModigliani's time, his work was seen as an oddity: contemporary with the Cubists but not part of their movement. His work was a link between such portraitists as Whistler, Sargent, and Toulouse-Lautrec and thatof the Art Deco painters of the 1920s as well as the new approaches of Gauguin, Ceeacute;zanne, and Picasso.
Jean Cocteau called Modigliani our aristocrat and said, There was something like a curse on this very noble boy. He was beautiful. Alcohol and misfortune took their toll on him.
In this major new biography, Meryle Secrest, one of ourmost admired biographers-whose work has been called enthralling (The Wall Street Journal); rich in detail, scrupulously researched, and sympatheticallywritten (The New York Review of Books) -now gives us a fully realized portrait of one of the twentieth century's master painters and sculptors: his upbringing, a SephardicJew from an impoverished but genteel Italian family; his going to Paris to make his fortune; his striking good looks (How beautiful he was, my god how beautiful, said one of his models) . . . histraining as an artist . . .and his influences, including the Italian Renaissance, particularly the art of Botticelli; Nietzsche's theories of the artist as Ubermensch, divinely endowed, divinelyinspired; the monochromatic backgrounds of Van Gogh and Ceeacute;zanne; the work of the Romanian sculptor Brancusi; and the primitive sculptures of Africa and Oceania with their simplified, masklike triangular faces, elongated silhouettes, puckered lips, low foreheads, and heads on exaggeratedly long necks.
We see the ways in which Modigliani's long-kept-secret illness from tuberculosis (it almost killedhim as a young man) affected his work and his attitude toward life; how consumption caused him to embrace fatalism and idealism, creativity and death; and how he used alcohol and opium with laudanum as an antispasmodic tohide the symptoms of the disease and how, because of it, he came to be seen as a dissolute alcoholic.
And throughout, we see the Paris that Modigliani lived in, a city in dynamic flux where art was stilla noble cause; how Modigliani became part of a life in the streets and a world of art and artists then in a transforming revolution; Monet, Ceeacute;zanne, Degas, Renoir, et al.-and others moreradical-Matisse, Derain, etc., all living within blocks of one another.
Secrest's book, written with unprecedented access to letters, diaries, and photographs never before seen, is anextraordinary revelation of a life lived in art . . . Here is Modigliani, the man and the artist, seemingly shy, delicate, a man on a desperate mission, masquerading as an alcoholic, cheating death again and again, andcalculating what he had to do in order to go on working and concealing his secret for however much time remained . . .
From the Hardcover edition.
From the acclaimed biographer of Bernard Berenson, Salvador Dalí, Frank Lloyd Wright, and Stephen Sondheim, admired for her sensitivity, versatility, and eloquence—a new full-scale biography of the celebrated modernist painter and sculptor that brings to life the seemingly shy, delicate man behind the romantic myth.
Amedeo Modigliani was considered the quintessential bohemian artist—his legend almost as infamous as Van Gogh’s.
In this major new biography Meryle Secrest writes about his upbringing as a Sephardic Jew from an impoverished genteel Italian family; his move to Paris to make his fortune; his striking good looks . . . his training as an artist, learning everything from painting, drawing, and sculpture to nude studies and landscapes; his influences and his long-kept secret illness of tuberculosis and the crucial ways it affected his life and work.
Here is Modigliani, the man and the artist, his life in the streets, and the Paris in which he lived, a city of boundless opportunity; and the world of art and artists then in the passionate embrace of aesthetic revolution.
About the Author
\Meryle Secrest was born and educated in Bath, England, and lives in Washington, D.C. She is the author of ten biographies and is the recipient of the 2006 National Humanities Medal.
Table of Contents
The problem — The clues — "Dedo" — The blood-red banner — The perfect line — La vie de Bohme — The serpent's skin — "What I am searching for" — Maldoror — Beatrice — "A stony silence" — "Nenette" — "Life is a gift" — The cult of the secret.
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