The early phase of the Amadeo Modigliani’s artistic career, which was spent in Paris at the turn of 20th century, will be the focus of a new exhibition at New York’s Jewish Museum in September. “Modigliani Unmasked” will encompass approximately 150 of Modigliani’s early drawings, sculptures, and paintings, alongside a number of multicultural artifacts that influenced the artist’s cultural expression. The show will center on how anti-Semitic sentiments, prevalent in Paris at the time, helped shape the aesthetics of his work during his short, yet extremely prolific 14-year career.
Although Modigliani’s early work is typically viewed as subordinate to his late paintings, understanding the anti-Semitic social and cultural climate in which these early works were created is crucial to apprehending Modigliani’s overall oeuvre, and how it was influenced by his own interpretation of his identity as a Sephardic Jew.
When he arrived in Paris in 1906, Modigliani for the first time in his life experienced social ostracism and anti-Semitism, propagated by the likes of the racist publisher Edouard Drumont who spread ideas that contrasted sharply with the artist’s more tolerant upbringing in Italy. At the same time, Modigliani was fluent in French thanks to his French mother who grew up in Marseille. This allowed the artist to blend in with the French culture, and move between different social spaces with greater ease than some of his fellow Jewish artists from Eastern Europe. read more