- Amedeo Modigliani
- Homme assis (appuyé sur une canne)
- Signed Modigliani (upper right)
- Oil on canvas
- 49 5/8 by 29 1/2 in.
- 126 by 75 cm
(possibly) Roger Dutilleul, Paris
(possibly) Stettiner, Paris (by 1930)
J. Livengood, Paris (acquired circa 1940-45 from an anonymous Paris sale)
Private Collection (by descent from the above and sold: Christie's, London, June 25, 1996, lot 15)
Acquired at the above sale by the present owner
Venice, XVII Biennale Internazionale d'Arte, Mostra Individuale di Amedeo Modigliani, 1930, no. 35 (titled Ritratto d'uomo)
Lugano, Museo d'Arte Moderna, Amedeo Modigliani, 1999, illustrated in the catalogue
New York, The Jewish Museum; Ottawa, The Art Gallery of Ontario & Washington, D.C., The Phillips Collection, Modigliani Beyond the Myth, 2004-05, illustrated in color in the catalogue pl. 58
New York, Helly Nahmad Gallery, Amedeo Modigliani: A Bohemian Myth, 2005, illustrated in color in the catalogue
London, Royal Academy of Arts, Modigliani and His Models, 2006, no. 30, illustrated in color in the catalogue
Ambrogio Ceroni, Amedeo Modigliani, Milan, 1958, no. 113, illustrated (with the measurements 100 by 65 cm)
Ambrogio Ceroni & Leone Piccioni, I Dipinti di Modigliani, Milan, 1970, no. 252, illustrated p. 101 (with the measurements 100 by 65 cm)
Joseph Lanthemann, Modigliani, 1884-1920, Catalogue raisonné, Sa vie, son oeuvre complet, son art, Barcelona, 1970, no. 118, illustrated p. 189
Osvaldo Patani, Amedeo Modigliani, Milan, 1991, no. 265, illustrated p. 268 (with the measurements 100 by 65 cm)
Christian Parisot, Modigliani Catalogue Raisonné, Livorno, 1991, no. 31/1918, illustrated p. 215 (with the measurements 100 by 65 cm)
This dashing gentleman is one of the anonymous figures whom Modigliani painted at the end of the war while living in Nice. Like the anonymous children or working-class models that feature in Modigliani's pictures from this period, the sitter was probably hired to pose for the artist during these months in 1918 (figs. 2 & 3). Earlier that March, Modigliani had moved his studio to Nice in anticipation of the German advance towards Paris. He knew few people in the south of France, and because commissions were scarce, he was obliged to choose models from all walks of life. One cannot help to be struck, however, by this figure's striking resemblance to Modigliani's former dealer Paul Guillaume, who wore a similar suit, tie and fedora in his portrait of 1916 (fig. 1). Joseph Lanthemann points out the sitter's likeness to Guillaume in his 1970 publication, and posits that this work may be a portrait of the man himself (fig. 4). But the present painting, more so than the earlier Guillaume painting, takes greater liberties in abstracting the features of the model. His face appears as geometric and stylized as an African tribal mask (fig. 6), and his body mimics the curvature of the cane against which he is posed. Without any obligations to flatter or fulfill the particular expectations of his patrons and friends, Modigliani exercised a newfound stylistic bravura in these portraits that he would apply to his later works, including his portraits of Monsieur Baranowski and Roger Dutilleul.
Another artistic influence on this picture is the work of Cézanne. Modigliani famously admired Cézanne's highly geometric approach to pictorial perspective and incorporated the Post-Impressionist's techniques and earth-toned color palette into his art. Tamar Garb has written about Modigliani's receptivity to the work of Cézanne, and her analysis can be readily applied to the present work: "Never seamless, his figures appear to have been assembled on the picture plane, stitched and pieced together in paint, their parts demarcated and defined in line. Asymmetry and curious disjunctions, most markedly expressed in the frequently mismatched eyes, while positing a subject that is divided and riven from within – literally split apart – are nevertheless subsumed in a fabricated, precariously balanced pictorial whole. The integrated subject of Modigliani's portraits links him to a world before Cubism, most notably that of his mentor Paul Cézanne, with his famous spatial disjunctions and decomposition of the world of visual sensation, his breaking apart of the structure of things so that their very physical makeup could be conveyed in an accumulation of separate color patches, each visible on the paint surface" (T. Garb, "Making and Masking, Modigliani and the Problematic of Portraiture," Modigliani, Beyond the Myth (ex. cat.), op. cit., p. 46).
"More than anything else, Modigliani was a portrait painter" the historian Werner Schmalenbach wrote in his well-known essay on the artist's portraiture, in which he considered Modigliani to be at the forefront of this genre in the 20th century. Schmalenbach explained that the artist's approach was one of cool distance and keen insight, a combination which enabled him to render the "likeness" of his sitter: "They are unequivocally portraits and, contrary to all the artistic precepts of the age, they possess a documentary value. Even a portrait such as that of Max Jacob, for all its formalization and stylization, is still a likeness – incontestably so, since it is actually based on a photograph. At the same time, however the sitter's individuality is reduced to the extent that the stylization creates the effect of a mask. This brings African masks to mind, but here there is nothing alien, mysterious or demonic about the mask; it masks nothing. On the contrary, the sitter has sacrificed to the form some of his individuality, his emotions, his affective life, just as the paint, for his part, keeps emotion well away from that form. He looks at this fellow man with great coolness. The warmth of the painting lies solely in its colour. This combination of cool detachment with painterly warmth lends the painting – like many other works by the artist – its own specific "temperature" (W. Schmalenbach, "The Portraits," Modigliani, L'ange au visage gravé (ex. cat.), Musée du Luxembourg, Paris, 2002-03, pp. 42-43).
It is believed that the first owner of this picture was Roger Dutilleul, who began his relationship with Modigliani the same year the painting was completed. As one of the first significant collectors of twentieth century avant-garde art, Dutilleul played an essential role in supporting the creative development of some of the most daring artists in Paris, including Léger, Picasso, Braque, Miró and, perhaps most importantly, Modigliani. His perspicacity and discriminating taste were renowned during the early years of the 1900s, and his eye for recognizing artistic talent rivaled that of the greatest collectors of his day. Discussing Dutilleul's historic importance during these nascent years of the modern art movement, Daniel-Henry Kahnweiler remarked, "a gallery, painters and the owner of the gallery could survive on very few collectors, three or four; true, these were loyal friends. First and foremost in France, Roger Dutilleul, who was from the very outset passionate about collecting" (quoted in F. Berthier and M. Restellini, "The Great Collectors of Modigliani in 1920," ibid., p. 410).