By Zelga Miller, MFA Year 1, Wimbledon College of Arts
The title of the first room and indeed the resounding question my mind as I left the Modigliani show at Tate Modern today, am I, are we ‘open to change’?
After much hype this retrospective did not disappoint. The breadth of this great artists’ work opens with a glorious self portrait, painted in 1915, in which Modigliani presents himself as the tragic clown Pierrot. A well known character at the time open to interpretation and perhaps illuminating the artist as a changing, within a period of intense personal transformation. Is this not where we as post-graduate students find ourselves most hours of most days? Indeed is this not an imperative within our own personal journey. I think so, and as our knowledgeable course leader Edwina Fitzpatrick noted last week one is often “lost” throughout periods of study, transition and our search as artists for self-actualisation.
Anyway, back to the exhibition. There are eleven themed areas to this exhibition in total containing sculpture and drawing marking him out as not simply a painter but also a draughtsman and sculptor. The areas move from his humble beginnings in Italy in 1884 where he came to realise that in order to develop his career a move to Paris was the only option, the place where he would meet new people and be ready to reinvent himself, his skills, his thinking and by proxy his work.
The areas work well and flow seamlessly within the exhibition area and with it having opened just a few days ago there was enough space to not just look fleetingly behind a crowd of people but to stand and really see each work and importantly a chance to walk all around the sculptures. Something which to my surprise and not been accommodated within the recent Giacometti exhibition at Tate Modern. Moving on…
The City-life area highlights his respect for Cezanne and the consequent influence within his work through to Modigliani’s meeting with his first patron Paul Alexandre and the beginning of his painting of the female nude, the signature that many of us still associate with Modigliani. Following this comes footage of Paris in the turn of the century as Modigliani would have known it; the theatre and cinema that attracted, and I dare say influenced, artists and writers alike at that time. Then comes the Grand Ideas and Sculptor room which hold beautiful, graceful feline heads of stone so clearly visible in his later painting work as we know it. The line, the eyes, the long nose, the featured neck and elongated form. All beautiful, almost swan-line in their appearance.
At this point you feel spoilt as a visitor having feasted so much already however you hunger for more paintings, the brush, the palette, the colour, the form, the grand sanguine nature of his works. Then they come, room upon room of glorious expressive portraits. Modigliani captured his world of art: his fellow artists, a new style of cubism and an abstraction of stylised features unique to his hand. At this point we start to see how, within a decade he has made the city of Paris his own.
Then come the glorious, sensual, liberated modern nudes. An abundance of eye contact and dominance within the figures marking a shift in the lives of young women at the time. The exhibition moves to his life both to and from the south of France and his demise in January 1920 where he loses his life-long battle with addiction which is followed within days by the suicide of his pregnant fiancé Hebuterne.
Though a sad end to a brilliant but short lived life this exhibition brings life to his work, a voice to his thoughts and colour to our minds as never before.
Definitely worth a trip at least once between now and April 2 2018.
Visiting the exhibition at Tate Modern
Tickets are £19.70, Free for Members and £17.90 for students (£15.90 without donation).
See the exhibition for just £10 at the next Uniqlo Tate Late. Offer valid from 18.00 on Friday 24 November 2017 only