Dr Paul Alexandre, Paris (acquired from the artist)
Thence by descent to the present owner
Venice, Palazzo Grassi; London, The Royal Academy (and travelling to Cologne, Madrid, New York, Florence, Montreal & Rouen), The Unknown Modigliani, Drawings from the Collection of Paul Alexandre, 1993-96, no. 108, cat. 42, illustrated in the catalogue
Paul Alexandre had an undying admiration for the young Italian artist whom he met in Paris in the autumn of 1907. He encouraged and supported Modigliani throughout his early years in Paris and their friendship resulted in Alexandre accumulating an unparalleled collection of works from Modigliani’s formative years in Paris. Alexandre kept a clinic at rue Pigalle in Montmartre and not far from there, at 7 rue Delta, he hired a pavillion, due for demolition, for the use of a group of artists including Modigliani.
Alexandre himself noted: ‘From the day of our first meeting I was struck by his remarkable artistic gifts, and I begged him not to destroy a single sketchbook or a single study. I put the meagre resources I could spare at his disposal, and I possess almost all his paintings and drawings from this period… The preparatory sketches and finished drawings allow one to follow his development step by step, stroke by stroke, during those successive states (like the states of an engraving) of the remarkably active mind of an artist searching for a style of his own which did, in fact, very soon emerge’ (quoted in: The Unknown Modigliani (exhibition catalogue), op. cit., 1993-96, p. 15).
The caryatid theme underpins the sculptural obsession of Modigliani’s early years in Paris. He became absorbed by these partly draped figures which supported the pediments of ancient Greek temples. It was Modigliani's dream to create a great series of stone caryatids but his poor health limited the scope of his production in this medium, and instead he turned to a two-dimensional exploration of this theme, executing a number of drawings and studies, and only a few rare paintings (fig. 1). Modigliani's caryatids, with their highly stylised, geometric forms, pay tribute to tribal arefacts, and to the sculptures of Constantin Brancusi, who similarly sought to reduce the human form to minimal sculptural elements.
FIG.I, Amedeo Modigliani, Cariatide, oil on canvas, 1911-13, Aichi Prefectural Museum of Art, Nagoya
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