Paul Guillaume, Paris
Roland Leten, Ghent (by 1947)
Galerie des Arts Anciens et Modernes, Lichtenstein
M. Knoedler & Co., Inc., New York (acquired from the above in October 1959)
Harold and Ruth Uris, New York (acquired from the above in January 1964 and sold: Christie's, New York, November 13, 1996, lot 19)
The Bellagio Gallery of Fine Art, Las Vegas (acquired at the above sale and sold: Sotheby's, New York, November 9, 2000, lot 34)
Acquired at the above sale by the present owner
Brussels, Galerie Georges Giroux, Exposition d'art français contemporain, 1947, no. 63
Brussels, Galerie Georges Giroux, Exposition de l'art vivant dans les collections privées belges, 1947, no. 62
Ghent, Musee des Beaux-Arts, La Peinture dans les Collections Gantoises, 1953, no. 112
Brussels, Palais des Beaux-Arts, Panorama de l'art contemporain dans les musées et collections belges, 1953, no. 37
Paris, Galerie Charpentier, Cent tableaux de Modigliani, 1958, no. 31
Edinburgh, Royal Scottish Academy; London, Tate Gallery, Modigliani, 1963, no. 18
Las Vegas, The Bellagio Gallery of Fine Art, The Bellagio Gallery of Fine Art Inaugural Exhibition, 1998-99
Arthur Pfannstiel, Modigliani, Paris, 1929, listed, p. 14
Gualtieri di San Lazzaro, Modigliani et son oeuvre, Paris, 1956, no. 88, listed p. 84
Ambrogio Ceroni, Amedeo Modigliani, Milan, 1958, no. 58, illustrated
Ambrogio Ceroni and Leone Piccioni, I dipinti di Modigliani, Milan, 1970, no. 102, illustrated p. 93
J. Lanthemann, Modigliani 1884-1920, Catalogue Raisonne, Barcelona, 1970, no. 93, illustrated p. 183
Ambrogio Ceroni and Françoise Cachin, Tout l'oeuvre peint de Modigliani, Paris, 1972, no. 102, illustrated p. 93
Osvaldo Patani, Amedeo Modigliani, Catalogo generale, dipinti, Milan, 1991, no. 106, illustrated p. 128
The Bellagio Gallery of Fine Art, Impressionist and Modern Masters (catalogue of the collection), Las Vegas, 1998, illustrated p. 91
The Bellagio Gallery of Fine Art, European and American Masters(catalogue of the collection), Las Vegas, 1999, illustrated p. 112
This painting is one of four portraits Modigliani executed of Paul Guillaume (see fig. 1), the young art dealer who had already become well-known in avant-garde circles partly by becoming an expert in the exotic artifacts he imported from Africa. It is the only portrait Modigliani painted of Guillaume that is still in private hands. Modigliani was introduced to Guillaume by the poet Max Jacob in 1915. Guillaume already handled the work of several important avant-garde artists, including Pablo Picasso, Giorgio de Chirico, and André Derain. Recognizing the potential in Modigliani's work, he made arrangements with the struggling artist, who constantly found himself without money, to finance his studio. However, the relationship soon became strained, as can be seen from the four portraits that Modigliani painted of the prominent dealer.
The first portrait of Guillaume, Paul Guillaume Novo Pilota (see fig. 2), depicts the art dealer as an elegant gentleman complete with stylish moustache and gloved hand (the cigarette adds a note of urbane sophistication). The painting includes two marked inscriptions: Novo Pilota, meaning literally "new pilot," and Stella Maris, less literally translated as "guiding light." Thus Modigliani explicitly signals the great admiration and respect in which he holds his new friend, feelings embodied in the composition as well. Modigliani has arranged the perspective so that Guillaume is viewed from slightly below, and the beholder must look up to the man just as the painter does.
Modigliani's second portrait of Guillaume, Paul Guillaume (devant sa bibliothèque), painted in September 1915 (see fig. 3), is a more intimate depiction than the first, showing Guillaume in his library.
The fourth portrait, Paul Guillaume assis, dated 1916 and now in Milan, suggests a far different attitude toward the art dealer (see fig. 4). It reveals the cool distance of the strained relationship and makes a clearly negative statement. Painted just before the two men would end their business relationship, it portrays Guillaume with one arm propped up and wearing an expression of arrogance and presumption.
The present work, which also dates from 1916, was probably painted before the Milan portrait. It is the first portrait in which we see evidence of the dissolving friendship. Guillaume is no longer positioned above the viewer, as he was in the Novo Pilota portrait. Instead he is presented at the same level, as if confronting the artist in an almost provocative manner.
In many ways this work is typical of Modigliani's manner of portrait painting during the years 1914 to 1917. Neither the devastation of World War I nor the conceptual changes of the period dissuaded him from depicting the human being in his subjects. Apart from the series of portraits of Guillaume, the artist produced a number of portraits of his companion, Jeanne Hébuterne, and also of the dealer who replaced Guillaume, Leopold Zborowski. He also produced many remarkable portraits of well-known artists and poets - among them Beatrice Hastings, Max Jacob, Jean Cocteau, Jacques Lipchitz, Chaim Soutine, Juan Gris, and Henri Laurens.
Paul Guillaume is a quintessential example of Modigliani's unique style. It embodies a typical tension between tradition, particularly the heritage of classical painting that Modigliani brought with him from Italy, and the avant-garde styles he encountered in Paris. Here as elsewhere he marries contemporary style to conventions of portraiture dating back to sixteenth-century Venice. Just as Renaissance artists often inscribed upon their canvases names, abbreviations, or other information related to their sitters, Modigliani writes the name "Paul Guillaume" across the top of his composition. Although the Cubists had introduced letters, words, and numbers to early twentieth-century painting, they did so primarily in an effort to break up the illusionistic space common to conventional painting. Modigliani's use of inscription, on the other hand, precisely followed the examples of the Italian masters, using names and words to characterize in detail the person depicted. And, unlike the Cubists, Modigliani did not fracture the planar surfaces of his subjects but instead separated the elements of his composition by emphasizing linear contour, a contemporary variation on traditional style.
In the present work, the artist focuses attention on the figure in order to eliminate distracting decorations and naturalistic details in the background. Borrowing the technique of his Renaissance predecessors, he uses a dark background, here in deep browns and greens, to give radiance to the lighter flesh tones in the foreground.
The black vertical line on the right and the horizontal line behind his head frame and accentuate the face. Although the reduced palette suggests the influence of the predominantly brown and gray Cubist canvases of Picasso and Braque, it also carries psychological overtones that Cubist paintings do not. The intense application of color and the harsh contrast between the dark and light tones suggest an emotional coldness. Meanwhile, the dark eyes of Guillaume lend the portrait both a psychological edge and a touch of sentimentality. The anatomical distortions of the nose and eyes reveal a formal affinity with Cubist works influenced by tribal African art. Like so many artists of the time, Modigliani acquainted himself with tribal "primitivism" by visiting Parisian museums featuring collections of sculptures and masks from Africa and South America. He shared the interest with Guillaume, who had an extensive private collection.
Fig. 1, Photograph of Paul Guillaume and Modigliani, circa 1916
Fig. 2, Amedeo Modigliani, Paul Guillaume Novo Pilota, 1915, oil on canvas, Musée de l'Orangerie, Paris-Walter-Guillaume Collection
Fig. 3, Amedeo Modigliani, Paul Guillaume assis, 1916, oil on canvas, Civico Museo d'Arte Contemporanea, Milan
Fig. 4, Amedeo Modigliani, Paul Guillaume (devant sa biblioteque), 1915, oil on canvas, Toledo Museum of Art
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